Lot 43
  • 43

A Marble Figure of a Young Satyr wearing a Theater Mask of Silenus, Roman Imperial, circa 1st Century A.D., with Restorations by Alessandro Algardi, 1628

3,000,000 - 5,000,000 USD
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  • A Marble Figure of a Young Satyr wearing a Theater Mask of Silenus
  • Marble
  • Height 23 7/16 in. 59.5 cm.
stepping forward menacingly, wearing over his head and shoulders an oversized comedy mask of an old satyr (Silenus), and thrusting his hand through the gaping mouth of the mask, the lower part of the child’s face and his grinning mouth visible through the eyes of the mask; the base, support, lower right leg, left leg, genitalia, left arm, both ears, and right hand restored in marble.


probably found circa 1620 on the grounds of the Villa Ludovisi in Rome, in antiquity the “Gardens of Sallust” (horti sallustiani)
Cardinal Alessandro Ludovisi,  Pope Gregory XV from 1621 to 1623, Villa Ludovisi, Rome
by descent to Giambattista Ludovisi, Rome, second half of the 17th Century
Giovanni Paolo Quintilij, Rome, until 1705
probably to Sabina Angela Quintilij del Cinque, by descent
Istituto S. Alessio, Rome, circa 1900
Jacob Hirsch, Geneva and Lucerne, by 1922
northern European private collection, acquired between 1922 and 1938
acquired by the present owner from the above in the late 1960s


"Divine Comedy," Sotheby's, New York, September 30th - October 19th, 2010 (on loan)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, California, 2011-2013


Theodor Schreiber, Die antiken Bildwerke der Villa Ludovisi in Rom, Leipzig, 1880, p. 31
Alessandro Baudi de Vesme, Stefano della Bella. Catalogue raisonné, Milan 1906, no. 97, illus. (print by Stefano della Bella); new ed. with introduction and additions by Phyllis Dearborn, New York, 1971, p. 68, no. 97, illus.
Photographische Einzelaufnahmen antiker Sculpturen, serie VII, Paul Arndt and Walther Amelung, eds., Munich, 1913, p. 20 (mentioned as a comparable for no. 1896)
G. Nicole, Catalogue des sculptures grecques et romaines du Musée de Genève et des collections particulières genevoises, Geneva, 1914, p. 10
W. Deonna, “Notes archéologiques: Eros jouant avec un masque de Silène,“ Revue archéologique, Ve série, vol. III, 1916, p. 75
Cornelius C. Vermeule, “Notes on a New Edition of Michaelis: Ancient Marbles in Great Britain, American Journal of Archaeology, vol. 59, 1955, p. 133
Y. Bruand, “La restauration des sculptures antiques du Cardinal Ludovisi,” Mélanges d’archéologie et d’histoire, vol. LXVIII, 1956, p. 413
Y. Bruand, Les sculptures antiques et modernes de la la collection Ludovisi-Boncompagni (1621-1901), thesis, École du Louvre, Paris, 1959, pp. 31-32
G. Lippold, ed., Photographische Einzelaufnahmen antiker Sculpturen, series XVIIB, Munich, 1947, p. 34, nos. 5007-5009, illus.
Valeria Andò, Luciano critico d’arte, Palermo, 1975, p. 36
M. Barasch, “A Silenus surviving in Nicola Pisano,” The Art Bulletin, vol. 58, 1976, p. 17, note 28
Peter Kranz, Die stadtrömischen Eroten-Sarkophage. Dionysische Themen mit Ausnahme der Weinlese- und Ernteszenen, Berlin, 1999 (Die Antiken Sarkophagreliefs Bd. V 2,1), p. 80
Lydie Hadermann-Misguisch, “L’image antique, byzantine et moderne du putto au masque,” Rayonnement grec: hommages à Charles Delvoye, Brussels, 1982, p. 516
Beatrice Palma, in Museo Nazionale Romano. Le Sculture, vol. I,4: I Marmi Ludovisi, storia delle collezione, Antonio Giuliano, ed., Rome, 1983, pp. 27-29, p. 71
Daniela Di Castro and Stephen Paul Fox, Disegni dall’antico dei secoli XVI e XVII dalle collezioni del Gabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe, Rome, 1983, p. 41, fig. 17 (engraving by Stefano della Bella), and p. 134, fig..71, illus. (drawing attributed to Stefano della Bella)
Jennifer Montagu, Alessandro Algardi, vol. II, New Haven and London, 1985, pp. 398-399, L.117
Beatrice Palma, in Museo Nazionale Romano. Le Sculture, vol. I,6: I Marmi Ludovisi dispersi, Antonio Giuliano, ed., Rome, 1986, pp. 96-98, no. III,3, illus.
P.C. Bol, Forschungen zur Villa Albani. Katalog der antiken Bildwerke, vol. IV, Berlin, 1994, p. 369
Beatrice Palma Venetucci, “Continuità di un motivo iconografico ellenistico: il putto con maschera,“ in Studi Miscellanei, vol. 28: Giornate di studio in onore di Achille Adriani, Rome, 26-27 Novembre, 1984, Rome, 1991, pp. 223-224, figs. 1-2
La collezione Boncompagni Ludovisi: Algardi, Bernini, e la fortuna dell antico, exhibition catalogue, Rome, 1992, p. 12
John Richard Green, Theatre in Ancient Greek Society, New York, 1994, p. 190, note 67
Eckhard Leuschner, Persona, Larva, Maske. Ikonologische Studien zum 16. bis frühen 18. Jahrhundert (Europäische Hochschulschriften, Series XXVIII, vol. 292), Frankfurt am Main, 1997, pp. 31, 55-56, 361 (Kat. no. 57), fig. 14
J. Montagu, ed., Algardi: l’altra faccia del Barocco, exhibition catalogue, Rome, 1999, p. 96
Sotheby's, New York, Divine Comedy, exh. cat., 2010, pp. 16-19, illus.
Shane Butler and Alex Purves, eds., Synaesthesia and the Ancient Senses, 2013, cover illus.
Arachne. Datenbank und kulturelle Archive des Forschungsarchiv für Antike Plastik Köln und des Deutsches Archäologisches Instituts, no. 32802 (http://arachne.uni-koeln.de/item/objekt/32802)



1623, Villa Ludovisi, Palazzo Grande, Stanza delle statue: “Un’ putto che tiene un maschera in testa senza gambe” (Palma, op. cit, 1983, Docum. no. 11, p. 71, fol. 65)
1628, payment of 12 scudi to Alessandro Algardi “per haver restaurato un Putto antico dalla Maschera, alla detta Vigna” (Montagu, op. cit., p. 398)
1633, Villa Ludovisi, Gallerietta: “Una statuetta, d’un Puttino antico con un mascherone in capo, con una mano fuori del bocca di detto mascherone palmi tre incirca alto sopra base di Pietra mischia nigra” (Palma, op. cit, 1983, Docum. no. 13, p. 76, no. 120)
1641, Villa Ludovisi, second room of the Galleria Nuova: “Putto dentro une Mascara antica che caccia fuori una mano” (Palma, op. cit, 1983, Docum. no. 16, p. 86, no. 66)
1665 , Villa Ludovisi: “Una statua di marmo bianco d’un puttino che tiene una maschera grande di un vecchio sul viso e fa uscire una mano della bocca di detta maschera” (Palma, op. cit., 1983, Docum. No. 17, p. 92, no. 28)


As described, the base, tree-trunk support, lower right leg, left leg, genitalia, left arm between shoulder and wrist, entire proper right ear (tip re-restored), proper left ear except for lobe restored in Carrara marble in 1628; fingers of proper right hand re-restored circa 1900 with pinky repaired at first joint; lower part of curls of beard probably restored, end of one spiral curl on proper left lacking, the remainder of the curl drilled for restoration, which is now lost; satyr repaired across proper right thigh in antiquity, and in modern times across both ankles with plaster at the joins; some plaster patches with in-painting on face of mask and knuckles of proper left hand; surface somewhat weathered overall and quite dirty; soot on surface underneath mask; plaster fill where support meets the body. When looking from below, head of faun is turned slightly to his right.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

The present statue is the only known sculpture in the round of an ancient subject otherwise only attested in relief. It is virtually unique in ancient sculpture in the virtuoso manner in which the artist carved the face of the child appearing behind the mask. It was unearthed on one of the most fertile and famous grounds for ancient sculpture in Rome, a tract of land which belonged successively to the historian Sallust, the Emperor Tiberius, and the Imperial House afterward. It entered the Ludovisi collection, among the best of its time, when its owner was the Ludovisi Pope Gregory XV. It is part of a handful of ancient sculptures known to have been restored by Alessandro Algardi, who along with Gianlorenzo Bernini was one of the two most famous sculptors of the Baroque age in Rome. Stefano della Bella found it fascinating enough to draw it a least twice. The documented history of its reception in the later 17th century is highly informative about how artists and patrons of the arts in the late Baroque period actively re-interpreted ancient sculpture according to their own mentality and preoccupations.

Throughout the 17th Century, the faun with mask was consistently interpreted as a putto or puttino, in complete disregard of his diminutive yet quite visible tail on the small of his back. Even after photographs of it were made in the 20th century and published, the confusion still endures in the literature, since none of the views ever showed the back of the sculpture and no scholar has had access to the actual object until recently.


The Gardens of Sallust

 The faun was most likely excavated on the grounds of the Villa Ludovisi between 1620 and 1623, when landscaping and construction of the villa took place within record time and at great expense. Unlike the restored statues from the Cesi Collection which had entered the Ludovisi collection prior to 1620, it was still in a fragmentary state when first exhibited at the Villa (see below). The land which Pope Gregory XV had chosen for his pleasure palace had a long history of housing such structures in antiquity, starting with the historian Sallust: its new owner knew that the area held a lot of potential for the discovery of new sculptures (see K.J. Hartswick, The Gardens of Sallust: A Changing Landscape, p. 24).

In the ancient Roman statuary group to which this figure originally belonged, the striding faun with Silenus mask was attempting to scare another figure. This humorous scene appears on Roman bas-reliefs, with putti or cupids in the role of fauns. On a sarcophagus the masked figure even wields a writhing snake at his antagonist, so as to increase the terrorizing effect of his surprise attack (P. Kranz, Jahreszeiten-Sarkophage [ASR 5, 4], Berlin, 1984, pls. 1,4; 5,1-4:http://arachne.uni-koeln.de/item/objekt/195031). It is possible that a now lost marble figure of a child with head thrown back and arms raised, also from the Ludovisi Collection, might have been part of the original group (see Palma Venetucci, op. cit., 1991, p. 22, fig. 3). Possibly once associated with the Ludovisi group and similar in scale to the present lot is a highly restored standing figure of a putto(?) wearing a large tragic mask and thrusting his hand through the mouth (Bol, op. cit., 1994, no. 509: http://arachne.uni-koeln.de/item/marbilderbestand/833578). This particular example, although unique, is not attested on reliefs, as opposed to the faun with comedy mask, which is ubiquitous.


The Villa Ludovisi

The earliest mention of the present statue occurs in an inventory of Alessandro Ludovisi’s antiquities collection drawn upon his death in 1623 as Pope Gregory XV. At the time the statue was located in the Stanza delle Statue in the main building of the Villa Ludovisi, the Palazzo Grande. There it is described as Un’ putto che tiene un maschera in testa, senza gambe (“A putto holding a mask over his head, without his legs;” Palma, op. cit, 1983, Docum. no. 11, p. 71, fol. 65). Five years later, Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi commissioned the sculptor Alessandro Algardi (1598-1654), Bernini’s main rival in Rome at the time, to do the same for the faun with mask. On March 23rd, 1628, a Ludovisi receipt records the payment of 12 scudi to Algardi per haver restaurato un Putto antico dalla Maschera (“for having restored an ancient putto with mask;” Montagu, op. cit., 1985, p. 398).

 From then on, the statue is recorded in its restored state on three occasions at the Villa Ludovisi: in 1633 in the Galerietta, on a variegated black marble base, in 1641 in the second room of the Galleria Nuova, and finally in 1665 (Palma, op. cit., 1983, Docum. no. 13, p. 76, no. 120; Docum. no. 16, p. 86, no. 66; Docum. no. 17, p. 92, no. 28). While the statue was still at the Villa Ludovisi, the Florentine artist Stefano della Bella (1610-1664) executed both a drawing and an engraving of the object (Baudi de Vesmes, op. cit. 1906, and Di Castro and fox, op. cit. 1983); in the former he omitted both the base and the tree-support, in the latter only the tree. In 1670 the sculpture appears in a list of marbles to be sold by Giambattista Ludovisi (Palma, op. cit, 1986, p. 308, fol.127).


The Quintilij Collection

Soon after 1670 the faun passed into the antiquities collection of Roman lawyer and notary Giovanni Paulo Quintilij. In a codicil to his testament dated 1705 (see Palma, op. cit., 1986, p. 98) it is described as being one of a pair with another statue by Pierre-Étienne Monnot (1657-1733) representing the same putto seated on the ground and holding the mask at his feet. Based on the same document, Quintilij’s intention in commissioning the French sculptor to carve the other putto was to present the pair as an allegory of Love: the ancient one representing l’amore interesato e falso, wearing a mask simbolo della falsità e dell’inganno; the modern one unmasked, representing l’Amore sincere e vero. The current whereabouts of Monnot’s Amore Vero, if it survives, are as yet unknown (see S. Walker, The sculptor Pietro Stefano Monnot in Rome, doct. Diss., New York University, 1999).

 It is not clear which of Giovanni Paulo Quintilij’s two daughters inherited the faun. According to B. Palma (op. cit. 1986, p. 98), it is likely to have been included, together with his pendant by Monnot, in the inheritance of Sabina Angela Quintilij del Cinque, even though no inventory exists to prove it.


From Rome to Northern Europe

The faun reappeared shortly after 1900 in the Istituto S. Alessio in Rome, an institution for the education of blind children, where photographers from the Vatican Museums recorded it on a single glass negative as it stood on a humble wooden table with his restored fingers still intact (Musei Vaticani, neg. no. XXX-73-10; Montagu, op. cit., 1985). Sometime in the early 20th century an art dealer offered the faun for sale to the Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek in Copenhagen. The three photographs sent by the dealer, each showing Algardi's restored fingers missing, were later forwarded by the museum to the team of the Photographische Einzelaufnahmen and published in 1947. The dealer in question might have been Jacob Hirsch in Geneva or Lucerne, in whose inventory the faun is said to have been in 1922.

Sometime in the 1920s/30s the faun was documented in a private collection in northern Europe. It remained in this collection, prominently displayed in the library of the owner’s residence, until 1938, when its Jewish owner had to leave the country and the statue behind. The Nazis then appropriated the residence and its contents but left them virtually untouched. In 1946, shortly after the owner had died in exile, the statue was restituted to his widow together with the house and its furnishings. The present owner, who acquired the statue from the widow of the collector, has owned it since the 1960s.