This youth, characterised as a satyr by his pointed animal ears and tousled mane of hair stands with his right elbow leaning against a tree trunk, his right foot behind his left. He seems to have fallen into a reverie, his gaze directed inwards. Both the tree trunk and the body are rendered without modelled details: these may have been executed in paint. The body is soft without any indication of muscles. The panther skin is positioned over the right shoulder, where the forepaws are tied in a knot, and the head rests on the satyr’s right breast. The left hand on the hip holds the skin exposing the lower torso.
This statue type is known in more than 100 copies in a range of sizes. Its enormous popularity may have been because the handsome young satyr’s features, which inhabit a territory somewhere between the human and the animal, the civilized and the uncivilized, appealed to the Roman public and were perfectly appropriate for the adornment of a Roman villa, garden or park. The copies differ considerally as far as details are concerned, but they do tend to follow the scheme very closely when it comes to stance, coiffure and panther skin, which may mean that people were working with one specific well-established type which had been transferred with the help of plaster casts. The large format copies of the type are of such uniform dimensions that for many of them the heads would have been interchangeable.
The original for this popular type is thought to have been a bronze statue by Praxiteles from around 340-330 BC, possibly the statue of a satyr, “which the Greeks call Periboëtos” which is mentioned by Pliny as having been brought to Rome (Plin. NatHist. 34. 69). It may originally have stood in a sanctuary of Dionysos.
The front hair is differentiated into fine sharp locks articulated by the drill, which creates a feeling of light and shade and dates from the 2nd century AD.
H. 180; 172 excluding the plinth.
The head has been broken off, and part of the neck has been restored in plaster. Part of the panther skin at the back is missing, as are the left arm, the fingers of the right hand, the nose and parts of the plinth. The hair is chipped, as are the lips and the edge of the panther skin. The penis was applied but is now missing. There is a break in the right ankle and between the feet, part of the left shoulder together with the puntello to the panther’s paw behind his leg. Acquired in 1897 through the agency of Helbig from the major-domo at the Palazzo Piombino-Boncompagni in Rome; found behind the Palazzo on land belonging to the Villa Ludovisi, during the building of the stables for the American Embassy. Provenance is thus the Gardens of Sallust.
F. Poulsen 1951, Cat. 475; P. Gercke, Satyrn des Praxiteles (1968) 22, St. 2; E. Bartman, Miniature Copies: Copyist Invention in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods (1984) 53, note 2, 57, fig. 4 a-d, p. 328-331 (believes the copy is Flavian); eadem, Ancient sculptural Copies in Miniature, Columbia Studies in the Classical Tradition XIX (Leiden 1992) 54, 60, fig. 9; M. Moltesen, in Horti Romani, BullCom Suppl. 6 (Rome 1998) 186, fig. 10. For the type, Vierneisel-Schlörb 1979, 352-363; J. Raeder, Die Antiken Skulpturen in Petworth House (Mainz 2000) 58-60.