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Young Satyr with Pan Pipes

Roman art


The seventeenth-century sources report the presence of various statues of fauns playing music in the Villa Borghese. Some were inside the residence, others in the garden. This sculpture is mentioned for the first time in 1650 by Iacomo Manilli and then in 1700 by Domenico Montelatici, both of whom wrote that it was what was then called the ‘Room of Sleep’, and is now Room 10.

It depicts a young satyr about to play the pan pipes he holds in his hand. The figure, which leans against a tree trunk, is portrayed nude, his chest covered in animal fur. Unlike its pendant, a satyr with a flute, this figure’s expression is relaxed and playful, emphasised by the partially open mouth.

This iconographic type is found in numerous exemplars. The Borghese Faun in the Louvre seems to be the one most similar to the present work.

Both are likely copies of a Hellenistic original: as already noted in the case of the Louvre faun, the influence of Praxiteles and Lysippus is clear in both works. The figure of the satyr, also found in art from the previous period, gradually lost its original animal-like features, acquiring an almost Apollonian appearance.


Object details

Inventory
CCXXVIII
Location
Date
2nd century A.D.
Classification
Medium
white marble
Dimensions
height without plinth 133 cm
Provenance

Borghese Collection, cited for the first time by Manilli, 1650. Inventario fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C., p. 52, no. 157. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 19th century Restorations in marble: the plinth with both feet and the lower part of the support, the left leg, a band below the knee, the right leg from the mid thigh to below the knee, the genitals, the right arm with the pedum, the left arm with the hand and the panpipes, the neck, the chin, the lips, the nose.
  • 1996–1998 Liana Persichelli

Commentary

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Iacomo Manilli and Domenico Montelatici reported the presence of numerous statues of fauns playing music in the Villa Borghese. Two were in what was at the time called the Room of Sleep, now Room 10 (Manilli, 1650, p. 106; Montelatici, 1700, p. 295), two were in what was known as the Room of the Three Graces (Room 9, today) and are now in the Louvre (Manilli, 1650, p. 109; Montelatici, 1700, p. 301; C. Di Tomassi, M.L. Fabréga-Dubert, J.L. Martinez, 2011, pp. 298–301, cat. 29-30) and others were in the garden, in enclosure one, decorating a fountain (Manilli, 1650, p. 11; Montelatici, 1700, p. 23).

The sculpture of a young satyr with pan pipes is displayed as a pendant to the one of the satyr playing the flute (inv. CCXXVI; Manilli, 1650, p. 106). Montelatici described them as ‘young fauns wearing tiger skins, leaning against tree trunks and each playing a flute’ (Montelatici, 1700, p. 295). When subsequently moved to other rooms, they were always kept together. More specifically, when the works in the villa were reorganised after the sale of sculptures to Napoleon Bonaparte in 1807, the two statues were installed in Room 7 (Nibby, 1841, p. 923, no.1 8), and then, some time later, they were moved to Room 8, as reported by Adolfo Venturi in the 1893 edition of his guide (Venturi, 1893, p. 48).

The young satyr is nude, with the exception of an animal skin, called a pardalis, which is knotted on his right shoulder and hangs down across his chest, covering the trunk the satyr leans his left elbow against. The figure is in a relaxed pose, his legs are crossed and his body is leaning against the trunk, which also functions as a support at knee-level. The satyr is portrayed smiling, and holds a pedum in his right hand and pan pipes (also called a syrinx, after the nymph by the same name) in his left, and seems about to play them. His cheerful, playful expression contrasts with that of the pendant sculpture, and gives the statue a childlike, lively air. Winckelmann identified this as typical of the ‘wild nature’ of fauns, ‘uninterested in the elegance of self-composure’. The writer further described the charming, childlike air of the sweetly smiling faun as Correggesque (Winckelmann, 1767, pp. 43–44).

The statue lacks the goat-like features typical of ancient depictions of this subject, all that remain of which are the pointed ears and dishevelled hair.

The iconography of the faun, known from numerous exemplars, was widely known and reproduced, even in the funerary context. The most similar work to the present sculpture is the statue of a Faun from the Borghese collection at the Louvre (C. Di Tomassi, M.L. Fabréga-Dubert, J.L. Martinez, 2011, pp. 298–301, cat. 29).

The relaxed pose and crossed legs suggest that it is probably an ancient copy of a model inspired by Hellenistic works by Praxiteles and Lysippus.

Giulia Ciccarello




Bibliography
  • I. Manilli, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana, Roma 1650, p. 106
  • D. Montelatici, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana con l’ornamenti che si osservano nel di lei Palazzo, Roma 1700, p. 295
  • J. Winckelmann, Monumenti antichi inediti, 1767, pp. 43-44
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1840, p. 23, n. 18
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno 1838, Roma 1841, p. 923, n. 18
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1854 (1873), p. 27, n. 20
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 48
  • G. Giusti, La Galerie Borghèse et la Ville Humbert Premier à Rome, 1904, p. 33
  • A. De Rinaldis, La R. Galleria Borghese in Roma, 1935, p. 17
  • R. Calza, Catalogo del Gabinetto fotografico Nazionale, Galleria Borghese, Collezione degli oggetti antichi, Roma 1957, p. 10, n. 68
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, (3° Edizione), Roma 1971, p. 17
  • B. Palma, Statua di Satirello nudo, in Antichità di Villa Doria Pamphilj, a cura di R. Calza, M. Bonanno, G. Messineo, B. Palma, P. Pensabene, Roma 1977, p. 340, n. 444.
  • P. Moreno, Museo e Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, p. 17
  • P. Moreno, S. Staccioli, Le collezioni della Galleria Borghese, Milano 1981, p. 101
  • K. Kalveram, Die Antikensammlung des Kardinals Scipione Borghese, “Römische Studien Der Bibliotheca Hertziana”, 11, Worm am Rehin, 1995, p. 242, n. 148
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 148, n. 10
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, pp. 215-216, n. 199
  • C. Di Tomassi, Satirello che suona la siringa, in I Borghese e l’antico, catalogo della mostra, (Roma, Galleria Borghese, 2011-2012), a cura di A. Coliva, Milano 2011, pp. 388-389, cat. 66
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/01008451, P. Moreno 1976; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2020