Roman Marble Satyr Teasing a Panther

Roman · 1st century A.D.



H: 108 cm





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This sculptural group of smaller than life-size dimensions is an excellent example of Roman sculpture conventionally described as decorative. Usually found in the domestic context, these statues created part of the garden setting and were closely related to greenery and fountains. If the decorative effect of carved white marbles placed against trimmed, ever-green plants was obvious, the meaning of the garden as part of the sacred landscape associated with the world of Dionysos/Bacchus, the god of wine, provider of fecundity, growing, and rebirth, was even more important in the thought of the ancients. Such statues were also considered appropriate dedications to the gods and could be placed as ex-votos at the sanctuaries.

Satyrs, who represented the bestial and sensual aspect of man, were close companions of Dionysos and his sacred animal, a panther. Being inhabitants of wild nature, satyrs themselves preserved the bestial features (horns, tail, and sometimes long hair on their skin). Here, as usual, the satyr is depicted in the nude with only one piece of cloth, a goatskin. It is draped across his body and tightened at the shoulder; on the front, it is placed diagonally from left shoulder to right flank. He is stepping forward on the tips of his toes while his upper torso is twisting, almost as if he is dancing. However, the action is different: his head is turned down toward the panther whom he is teasing. The satyr caught the animal with his left hand by the end of its curved tail. By pulling and lifting it, he even elevates the panther’s hindquarters into the air while the panther balances on its forepaws. In a surprise and annoyance, the animal has jerked its head, looking up at its tormentor; the panther’s mouth is wide open, snarling. The captor, instead, is not going to stop; he is represented smiling with his heart-shaped lips slightly parted, which reveal his teeth. Two little horns are visible on the forehead; the satyr’s ears are pointed, and his hair is carved in tufts (his tail at the back is not visible as the goatskin covers it).

Satyrs are often represented in Greek and Roman art playing with a panther, teasing it with a cluster of grapes or drops of wine dripping from a bowl in his elevated hand. There are many variations of this scene, even including the figure of Dionysos himself. Good examples of it are found in the statues in the Villa Albani in Rome, the Uffizi in Florence, and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

Besides the masterly represented story, this statue is also an interesting and important example of historical restoration; it demonstrates the methods of restoring ancient sculptures typical for Rome’s 17th and 18th-century practices.


Surface in good condition other than superficial chips and cracks; some soil deposits; visible breaks at the satyr’s knees, left arm, hand, neck, head, panther’s chest, and legs. Restorations to the satyr’s knees, neck, and middle part of the left arm. The right arm and penis, once restored (evidenced by the drilled hole) have been de-restored and are absent. Also missing is the panther’s left foreleg.


Art market, prior to prior to 18th century;

Ex- private collection, circa 18th/19th century (based on the restoration techniques);

European art market, photographed prior to 1928;

Ex- private collection, acquired prior to 1972;

Ex- Ophiuchus private collection, New York, 1982.


Photographs in The John Marshall archive (1862–1928) ID 378, Marshall’s cardfile: B.I.109


BIEBER M., The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age, New York, 1961, pp. 111-139, fi gs. 449, 568.

FURTWANGLER A., Der Satyr aus Pergamon, in Winkelmanns Program vol. XL, Berlin, 1880, pp. 4-20, pl, III, figs. 2-3.

LOVE I., Ophiuchus Collection, Florence, 1989, pp. 76-83, no. 13.

MANSUELLI G. A., Galleria degli Uffizi: Le sculture, Part I, Roma, 1958, pp. 133-134, no. 98, fig. 100.

WALDHAUER O., Die antiken Skulpturen der Ermitage, part 2, Berlin, Leipzig, 1931, p. 34, no. 135, pl. 32.


LOVE I., Ophiuchus Collection, Florence, 1989, pp. 76-83, no. 13.