Greek Bronze Statuette of a Satyr
Period: late 4th-3rd century B.C.
Dimensions: H: 20.5 cm
Ex German Private Collection, 1980’s ; Gorny & Mosch, Giessener Münzhandlung, December 15, 2004, Munich, Auktion 137, n. 148, pp. 46-47 ; ex European private collection.
Complete statuette, except for the feet now lost. The patina is dark and shows concretions in several places. The object on the head of the figure is incomplete.
This piece was made by the lost wax casting process and then cold-worked to add finely incised details (face, hair, tail, accessories). The end of the left leg has a small tenon, indicating that it was attached to the foot or that the statuette was placed on a larger support (perhaps a candelabrum?). It is now mounted on a pedestal, by means of a modern tenon inserted in the lower right leg.
The figure can be identified as an athletic young satyr. The particularly well-modeled musculature is noteworthy: a thrusting chest, sinuous abdominal muscles and twisted hips (because of the raised left arm), rounded buttocks, rippling muscles on the upper and lower limbs. His face is slightly chubby, but with jaw and chin clearly defined. All the distinctive features of the satyr are represented: bushy eyebrows, a small turned-up nose, pointed ears and a small ponytail on the lower back. The satyr is portrayed in the act of walking. His right arm hangs along his body to hold a small, finely decorated trefoil oinochoe. His left arm is raised above his head, probably to support the object carried on his head, possibly a lamp or rather – as a counterpart to the wine stored in the vessel and to highlight the symposiastic nature of the statuette – a cup in which he placed a bunch of grapes and whose base only is preserved. Satyrs are creatures of Greek mythology. They are associated with their female counterparts, maenads (women with a human appearance, but possessed by madness), to form the Dionysian procession that accompanies Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstasy. Living in the woods and hills, satyrs usually have a human form, but they are also endowed with animal features, such as the ears and tail of a horse. They may sometimes have goat’s hooves; this might have been the case in this example, given the presence of the tenon indicating a foot made separately and then added, an element that links them more to Pan, the god of the wild. They are sometimes confused with Sileni, who have the same half-human and half-animal appearance (occasionally more exaggerated, since they are then provided with the lower limbs of a horse), but they differ in being represented as older and therefore wiser men. The dynamic swaying attitude and the well-developed though realistic rendering of the musculature of the satyr enable us to attribute this statuette to a northern Greek workshop, following the great sculptural trend that artists developed during the Hellenistic Greek period.
PUBLISHED : Gorny & Mosch Giessener Münzhandlung, December 15, 2004, Munich, Auktion 137, pp. 46-47, no. 148.
Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Vol. VIII, Zurich-Munich-Dusseldorf, 1997, s.v. Sileni, type I-D (pot-bellied or athletic), no. 38 (black-figure vase); type III-E-2 (Dionysian cult scene), no. 142 (black-figure vase).
On the evolution of the models in great Greek sculpture:
BOARDMAN J., Greek sculpture : the late classical period and sculpture in colonies and overseas, London, 1995.
SMITH R.R.R., Hellenistic sculpture, London, 1991.