BC/AD Sculpture Ancient to Modern

BC/AD Sculpture Ancient to Modern

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 129. ATTRIBUTED TO DOMENICO PIERATTI (1600-1656) | SATYR LYING ON A PANTHER SKIN.


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Lot Details






29 by 90cm., 11⅜ by 35⅜in.

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This lot has been withdrawn from the sale.

Private collection, Florence, Italy;

the present owner

T. Montenari, 'Domenico Pieratti: Satyr Lying on a Panther Skin' in A. Butterfield (ed.), Body and Soul: Masterpieces of Italian Renaissance and Baroque Sculpture, exh. cat., Andrew Butterfield Fine Arts and Moretti Fine Art, New York, 2010, pp. 80-85

This sensuous marble representing a satyr reclining on a panther skin has been convincingly attributed to the Florentine 17th-century sculptor Domenico Pieratti by Tomasso Montenari. The marble finds its inspiration in the celebrated Borghese Hermaphrodite (musée du Louvre, Paris, inv. no. MR 220) in representing a youth languidly spread across the floor, back and buttocks exposed and legs kicking playfully. The figure, an inebriated satyr, is charged with eroticism. He lies upon the fur of a lion pelt which is contrived to conceal his genitals, leaving the precise gender of the subject an open question in the viewer's mind.

The discovery of the Borghese Hermaphrodite in 1619 caused a sensation, with Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte describing 'a beautiful statue of a woman awaking as a man' having been discovered in the garden of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. It was later acquired by Cardinal Scipione Borghese and restored by Gianlorenzo Bernini, who added in the famous marble mattress. The statue was prominently displayed in Villa Borghese until it was bought by Napoleon from his brother-in-law Prince Camillo Borghese.

The Hermaphrodite was renowned internationally and images of it were distributed through contemporary prints. However, it gained a particular significance for Florence after Giambologna's celebrated pupil Giovanni Francesco Susini (1585-1653) created his own bronze reduced version, of which a cast is in the Metropolitan Museum (inv. no. 1977.339). It was perhaps because of the arrival of Susini's version of the Hermaphrodite in Florence that the present satyr came into existence. 

The present satyr is an original and apparently unique fusion of the ancient composition with the tempered baroque style prevalent in 17th-century Florence. The quality of the carving is such that it must have been executed by a leading sculptor active in the first half of the 17th century. Note the bristling fur and rippling skin of the lion pelt and the raised right leg which kicks into the air without the need of a support.

The marble exhibits several characteristics seen in a number of works by Domenico Pieratti. The first is the hair formed of curling tufts and the almost surprised facial expression with lips parted and eyes opened wide. A strong comparison is found in Pieratti's St John the Baptist in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. no. 2006.70) and also in the pair of cherubs each forming an acquasantiera in the church of Santi Michele e Gaetano in Florence (Pratesi, op. cit., figs. 450-451). The smooth polished skin of the underside of the lionskin, which seemingly ripples, is close to the fluttering drapery found in the aforementioned cherubs. Lionskins or fleeces appear in many of Pieratti's works and are used to contrast with the smooth flesh of the human protagonists. See, for example, the large St John the Baptist in the Bargello; the Zeal in the Grotto of Moses in Palazzo Pitti and the Hercules and Omphale in Palazzo Galli Tassi (all illustrated in Pratesi, op. cit., nos. 456, 458 and 461). These characteristics make a strong case for the authorship of the present satyr sitting with Pieratti, in which the sculptor has successfully synthesised his own unique baroque style with the classicism of the antique prototype.

The present group departs from classical precedent in showing the satyr reclining within a natural setting upon the ground. In this respect the present figure recalls another antique version of the Hermaphrodite which was in the Ludovisi collection during Pieratti's lifetime but is now in the Uffizi in Florence. It is unknown how or why the present sculpture came to be carved, but given its scale it was likely made for the private enjoyment of a wealthy Florentine patron.

Domenico Pieratti was one of the major sculptors of the Florentine Baroque movement. Active in the generation after Giambologna, he was a student of Chiarissimo Fancelli (1588-1623). His most important works are large carved marble and stone allegorical figures, predominantly for the Boboli Gardens, and religious figures for numerous churches in Florence. He also worked for the Barberini in Rome, where he died.


A.E.Brinkmann, Barocksculptur, Berlin, 1917, p.282; C.Pizzorusso, A Boboli e Altrove: Sculture e Scultori Fiorentini del Seicento, Florence, 1989, pp. 94-95; G.Pratesi, Repertorio della Scultura Fiorentina del Seicento e Settecento, Turin, 1993, figs. 446-462