Roman marble torso of a satyr
2nd century AD
H : 21 cm
Provenance : Collection of Monsieur G. (1980) , Paris
Facing frontally, nude but for a nebris falling from his left shoulder this fine torso depicts a youthful body with subtle musculature. The fact that it is a skin, allows us to assume that the figure is one of a satyr. This deduction is confirmed by the fact that a small curly tail can be seen near the tailbone.
The left arm lowered against the goatskin, while the right forearm would probably have been further forward as suggest by the pectoral and shoulder muscles, the satyr is standing with his weight on the left leg. The torso leans slightly back and this position gives a sense of movement, a degree of dynamism. Taking these deductions and the other pieces into account, it would seem that the pose is suggesting a dancing satyr.
There are many different version of dancing satyr and two series of publications offer a good overview of the ancient sculptures included in the collections that were considered the most prominent during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The first series, entitled "Musée de sculpture antique et moderne", includes six volumes, published in 1826–1853. The publisher was the French count Charles Othon Frédéric Jean-Baptiste de Clarac.
This quest was continued, about half a century later, by the French archaeologist Salomon Reinach. Reinach also published six volumes, although the first of these was a new issue of the plates published by Clarac. This series bears the title Répertoire de la statuaire grecque et romaine, and it was published between the years 1897–1930. In these two series of publications, the sculptures are depicted as they looked when they were drawn, including restorations. The drawings published by Clarac and Reinach include no less than 20 ancient sculptures representing “Satyrs with cymbals”. Even though sharing the trait specified, these sculptures display a lively variety.
The pose of this satyr seems to be very close to that of the faun kept in the Borghese Gallery and thus described by Clarac (fig. 7):” Faune bien conservé et précieux, surtout par ses crotales antiques. Debout, nu et de face, il élève le bras droit tendu et abaisse la main gauche. Il a le pied droit presque levé, en sorte que le poids du corps porte sur la jambe gauche ».
C.O.F.J.B. d. Clarac, Musée de sculpture antique et moderne, Paris 1836-37, pl. 717, cat. No. 1715.
Satyrs, creatures of the wild, part man part beast, were very popular in Roman world and they were closely associated with the God Dionysus. As companions of Bacchus they were usually shown drinking, dancing, playing flutes and sporting with the Maenads. These shaggy and unruly creatures lived wild in the forests and symbolized the dangers of unrestraint.
Gods are accompanied by fabulous creatures who enrich the narrative space that develops and embellishes their powers. Thus, Aphrodite, the goddess of love, sends forth her winged Erotes to awaken love in human beings. By contrast, Dionysos, the god of wine and the theatre, is surrounded by satyrs and maenads in a state of ecstatic frenzy. In their intoxicated state, the lustful fellows with their demonic energy – half men, half he-goats – pursue the raving women but are rejected time and again. The satyrs came to represent the more excessive side of the Dionysos cult.
Bibliographic references :
- C.O.F.J.B. d. Clarac, Musée de sculpture antique et moderne, Paris 1836-37
- J. Habetzeder, The impact of restoration, The example of the dancing satyr in the Uffizi, 2012 Opuscula Annual of the Swedish Institutes at Athens and Rome
- P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma, 2003
- S. Reinach, Répertoire de la statuaire grecque et romaine, Paris 1897-1930