Black painted stone
Italy, 17th century
80 x 69 x 36cm
(one head missing)
Cerberus, cruel monster, fierce and strange,
Through his wide threefold throat barks as a dog
Over the multitude immers'd beneath.
His eyes glare crimson, black his unctuous beard,
His belly large, and claw'd the hands, with which
He tears the spirits, flays them, and their limbs
Piecemeal disparts (Dante, Inferno, Canto VI).
Cerberus figure seated, in his role of ferocious guardian of the underworld; he shows a nervous musculature, an adherent skin which reveals the ribs, long and robust limbs; his heads are broad and the eyes set well apart.
Painted in black to amplify his menacing look, the infernal guardian is depicted with his famous attributes, writhing his heads, growling and barking furiously.
Cerberus, in Greek mythology, was the monstrous watchdog of the underworld – also known as the “hound of Hades” – preventing the dead from leaving, and making sure that those who entered never left.
A child of Typhon and Echidna, he was part of a monstrous family, which included Orthus, the Lernaean Hydra, and the Chimaera as well. Only on three occasions Cerberus was tricked by visitors of Hades: Heracles did it with his strength, Orpheus with his music.
In "The Inferno", Dante places Cerberus as the guardian of the third circle of Hell. With his three mouths, Dante saw Cerberus as a beast that was synonymous with the sin of Gluttony. Virgil gets past the monster by throwing mud in his three mouths, temporarily choking him.
Very rare are the representations of Cerberus in ancient statuary; most often the famous monster appears in Greco-Roman works (the best known is the black-figure hydra of Caere kept at the Grand Palais in Paris) or in Louis XVI works whose themes are inspired by classical antiquity (as the sculpture attributed to Pajou and displayed at the Louvre).
18 000 €