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Resting Satyr

Roman art


The statue depicts a young satyr at rest, leaning against a tree trunk in an elegant and languid pose. The body, partially covered by panther pelt, presents a sinuous rhythm, and the face, reclining towards the viewer’s right, shows a serene and content expression. The prototype is generally recognised as a mature work by the Greek sculptor Praxiteles, which was particularly appreciated in the Roman age – as its 114 known replicas testify – and which was especially used in atriums, gardens and interior ceremonial spaces in both public and private contexts. This statue was moved to the villa outside Porta Pinciana in 1828, when it was entrusted to Antonio d’Este for restoration, before being displayed in Room VIII. It can perhaps be identified with the Ceoli Satyr purchased by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1607 and placed in the wall of the inner garden of the Borghese city palazzo, where it is depicted in an engraving by Venturini from the second half of the seventeenth century.


Object details

Inventory
CCXXXII
Location
Date
prima metà II sec.d.C.
Classification
Medium
white marble
Dimensions
height without plinth cm 174 (head cm 27)
Provenance

Ceoli Collection; Borghese Collection, from 1607 (cited in the Inventario della primogenitura di Giovanni Battista Borghese, 1610, no. 8); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C, p. 54, no. 186. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1828, Antonio D’Este
  • 1996-97, Liana Persichelli

Commentary

The statue depicts a young satyr – recognisable by his feral ears and the pardalide – elegantly and languidly standing in a resting pose: the left leg, in tension, supports the body leaning against the tree trunk while the right is slightly bent. In the restored right hand there was once an object, perhaps a single or double flute. The body is only partially covered by the panther pelt, draped from the right shoulder across to the left hip; the panther snout hangs from the right shoulder, covering the armpit. The compositional structure, built according to a sinuous rhythm, traces an ‘S’ along the median of the body terminating at the top with the head reclining towards the observer’s right. The face shows a serene and content expression, while the gaze seems to be directed towards a frontal viewer; the hair is gathered into thick locks held back by a tainia.

The statue was only moved to the villa outside Porta Pinciana in 1828, when it was entrusted to Antonio d’Este for restoration before being placed in Room VIII, on the occasion of the setting up of the new collection in the Casino, impoverished by the massive sale of works to Napoleon Bonaparte. According to Paolo Moreno, the statue can be identified with the Satyr in a drawing by Andrea Boscoli at Palazzo Ceoli in Via Giulia, purchased by Cardinal Scipione Borghese together with other works in 1607 (Moreno, Viacava 2003, p. 251). The sculpure, one of the ‘Two Beautiful Fauns Leaning on a Trunk’ mentioned in the inventory of primogeniture (Inventario della primogenitura) of 1610 (De Lachenal 1982, Appendix VI, no. 8), was placed in Palazzo Borghese in Campo Marzio, in one of the eight niches in the wall of the inner garden of the Borghese city palazzo, the so-called Teatro (theatre) where it appears in an engraving by Venturini from the second half of the seventeenth century (Falda 1691, table 11). According to another hypothesis, however, the Ceoli Satyr in Boscoli’s drawing should rather be identified with the one now in the new storage spaces at Museo Pietro Canonica (Campitelli 2001; Napoletano, Santolini 2013, p. 162).

Also known as Satyr Anapauomenos (at rest), J. J. Winckelmann and E. Q. Visconti attributed this sculpture to the Greek sculptor Praxiteles, a hypothesis mostly supported by scholars. Still object of debate, however, is its possible correspondence with one of the satyr statues attributed to the sculptor such as the one in Parian marble that Pausanias (I, 43.5) mentions in the temple of Dionysus at Megara, or with the bronze statue of the periboetos – included by Pliny in the catalogue of the artist’s bronze statues (Naturalis Historia XXXIV, 69) – or, finally, with the one displayed on Tripodon Street in Athens. As for the dating of the prototype, the similarities with the Cnidian Aphrodite in the rhythmic composition of the figure and the torsion of the hips, and the affinities with the cupbearer of Dionysus in three-dimensional aspects lead to its identification as a product of the Greek sculptor’s maturity (Mattei 2010).

The statue is known to us through at least 114 replicas, mainly from Rome and its surroundings, but also spread throughout the provinces of the empire (Pasquier, Martinez 2007). Contributing to the success of the subject in the Roman world was the high adaptability of the iconography to the decoration of atriums and gardens and prestigious interior reception spaces, in both public and private contexts. The main elements that distinguish the replicas are the distance between the tree trunk and the body of the satyr, on which the very balance of the figure depends, the tilting of the head, whether or not it faces downwards, and the presence of a crown of pine cones or a simple tainia on the head. The Villa Borghese statue belongs to the group of Satyrs depicted in a frontal position, with the head inclined and the right shoulder slightly higher than the left, and can be compared to one of the two statues in the Munich Glyptoteca (inv. 228). Some technical and executive characteristics liken the piece to the one in the Capitoline Museums (inv. S 739), whose provenance from Hadrian’s Villa suggests that it may be identified as a classical Hadrian age sculpture, perhaps the product of an urban workshop.

Jessica Clementi




Bibliography
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