The sculpture was variously interpreted by 16th and 17th century scholars. A popular view characterised the crouching figure as a serf overhearing a political conspiracy in Rome. It is now widely believed to be a Roman copy of a Hellenistic work representing the Scythian executioner of the satyr Marsyas, sharpening his knife in preparation for the flaying (op. cit., p. 156).
F. Haskell and N. Penny, Taste and the Antique. The Lure of Classical Sculpture, New Haven/ London, 1981, pp. 154-7
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