Faun Playing the Flute
France, 19th Century
After the Antique (Louvre, MR187)
H 136 x W 49 x D 31 cm (base)
Also known as the Faun with pipes, Faun playing on a fife, The Little Fluter, Le Petit Faune, Der Pan mit der Querflöte.
After Hellenistic reproduction of a Greek original, presumably by the renowned sculptor Lysippos of Sicyon.
This captivating bronze statue portrays a young beardless man playing on a fife. The man is generally believed to be a satyr, one of the male companions of the gods Pan and Dionysus. The original Greek statue is lost, but several Roman copies of it still exist. Some of them show little horns on the young man’s head which indicates the satyr is more probably Pan himself, the lustful boorish goat-god of the countryside. Pan enjoyed a strong cult as an independent deity especially in rural Macedonia under Antigonid patronage. However, during the Hellenistic period he was also subsumed into the Dionysian realm. He took different forms but the canonical Hellenistic representation was that related to satyrs, usually depicting him with strong goat-legs and a remarkable man-goat synthesis for a head. Here, rather exceptionally, Pan has a far more elegant and charmingly boyish appearance. Over his left upper arm he’s wearing a chlamys made out of the skin of a lion or a tiger which is attached to his right shoulder. The upper part of Pan’s body is slightly inclined to the left. Most copies have Pan leaning the left side of his body either against the trunk of a tree or a pillar, while his flute’s pointing in the opposite direction.
The Faun in the Louvre is today among the less disparaged of the surviving antique examples of this statue, all of which are considered to be Hellenistic copies of a Greek bronze original of the second half of the fourth century. It has been suggested that the original was perhaps the one in Athens made by the great Lysippus mentioned by Pliny. The popularity of the sculpture has been considerable and almost undiminishing ever since its creation. The fact that at least 25 replicas have come down to us from Antiquity, can be seen as strong evidence that the ancients had great admiration for the statue.
Images of the statue appeared in many different forms in various places throughout the Roman Empire. A beautiful example is a mosaic from Corinth dating from the Imperial Period showing almost the exact same image of Pan playing his flute while leaning against the trunk of a tree. Another rather unusual example is a terracotta cast of a Roman relief after the Greek original sculpture. It was found in the German city of Mainz
(Lat. Mogontiacum), in Roman times the capital of the province Germania superior.
The Piping Pan is also depicted on several different coins from the city of Caesarea Paneas in Palestine, going back to the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius (r. 161-180 CE) and Elagabalus (r. 203-222 CE). It’s not extraordinary that Pan, who was the symbol of this city that carried his name, was represented on its coins. It is quite remarkable however, that an image of a Greek statue made some 500 years before was used. This goes to showing the enormous popularity of the statue throughout a vast area for several centuries.
It’s not known exactly when the most famous version of this Faun, namely the one formerly belonging to the Borghese collection and now housed in the Louvre, was discovered. All we know is that it was in the Villa Borghese by 1638. It remained there until 27 September 1807 when it was purchased together with the bulk of the Borghese collection by Napoleon Bonaparte, who was in fact the brother-in-law of Prince Camillo Borghese. It was subsequently sent from Rome to France, between 1808 and 1811, and displayed in the Musée by 1815.
After its discovery, the fame of the statue was instantaneous. It figured prominently in Perrier’s celebrated anthology of the most admired statues in Rome, the Segmenta nobilium signorum, published in 1638. Moreover, it was praised and loved to such an extent that at least two copies of it were produced to help embellish the gardens of the magnificent palace of Louis XIV in Versailles: one by Simon Hurtrelle and another one by Jean-Baptiste Goy, two of the most renowned sculptors in France at the time.
In the eighteenth century the sculpture was frequently admired and copied by travelers who visited Rome as a part of the Grand Tour. Numerous engravings of the statue dating from this period have survived as well as grisaille decorations, plaster casts, copies in artificial stone and even a Wedgwood tablet of four inches by three. Towards the end of the century its fame was slightly overshadowed by that of another Faun, the so-called Marble Faun in the Capitoline Museum in Rome that was attracting more attention on the account of its supposed reflection of an original by the Greek sculptor Praxiteles. Soon however, similar claims were made for the Faun with Pipes.
During the next century the Faun remained very popular and consequently replicas of it can be found in the 19th century catalogues of several of the great artistic bronze foundries throughout Europe. This fine reproduction in particular was made in France.?
Books & catalogi:
M. Bieber, The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age, (2nd edition; New York – 1967).
J. Friedlaender, ‘Neue Erwerbungen des K. Münzenkabinets’, in Archäologische Zeitung 27 (1869).
W. Fuchs, Die Skulptur der Griechen, (München – 1969).
F. Haskell & N. Penny, Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classic Sculpture 1500-1900, (Yale – 1982), n° 38.
E. Künzl, ‘Eine antike Tonform aus Mogontiacum/Mainz’, in Rivista di Archeologia 9 (1985), pp. 35-37.
P. Moreno, Scultura ellenistica, (Rome – 1994).
F. Perrier, Segmenta nobilium signorum et statuarum que temporis dentem invidium evase, (Rome & Paris – 1638)
M. Robertson, A History of Greek Art, (Cambridge 1975), vol. 1, pp. 468.
T.L. Shear, ‘The Roman Villa’, in Corinth, vol. 5 (1930).
B. Sismondo Ridgway, Hellenistic Sculpture I: The Styles of ca. 331-200 BC, (Madison – 1989).
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