The sculpture is a bust of a bacchante in the act of dancing, made with white marble. The style is naturalistic; the physiognomic features are not emphasized. The shoulders are high projecting the arms (missing) toward the exterior, in accord with the circular movement of the dance. On the left arm was probably wrapped the skin of a panther, while from the left hand was probably dangling a cup of wine. The right hand was holding the thyrsus, a long pole topped by a tangle of ivy with a pine-cone shape, a typical attribute of Dionysus. The pectoral muscles are stretched, while the back muscles are well defined. The buttocks are rounded and slightly oblique. The slightly prominent belly is typical element of the bacchanalian; it is carved with a very natural language. The penis is damaged and almost completely missing. The right leg is stretched forward and acts as a pivot for the rotation of the torso and the arms during the dance. The left leg is in backward position, probably bended with the calf (missing) facing up. The body is tilted about 30 degrees to the left. The statue probably followed the canon of the aposkopein. The satyr is represented in the sacred nakedness.
Style and considerations
The statue has a precise comparison with the artworks attributed to Praxiteles, among which the Dancing Satyr of Mazara del Vallo. This statue represents a Bacchante during one orgiastic ritual in the act of dancing; the sacred dance was performed while drinking wine, to achieve the mood necessary for communicating with the divine. The statue is made of white marble and shows a smoothing of high quality. The torsion movement is a classic element of the Praxiteles’s models. Some scholars consider that the renaissance artist, Antonio del Pollaiuolo (1431-1498), was inspired by the torsion of the body of Praxiteles’s statues and that reproduced similar movements in his artworks.
Archaeological Museum of Mazara del vallo, black satyr
Adorno, 1985,L’arte italiana.
Bianchi Bandinelli – Paribeni, 1976, L’arte dell’antichità classica, Grecia.
Bianchi Bandinelli – Paribeni, 1976, L’arte dell’antichità classica, Etruria – Roma
Boschung, 2005, Gens Augusta.
Catoni, Gli schemata: danza, arte, vita. Comunicazione non verbale nella Grecia antica, Edizioni della Normale di Pisa, in corso di pubblicazione
De Cesare, Le statue in immagine. Studi sulle raffigurazioni di statue nella pittura vascolare greca, L’Erma di Bretschneider, Roma 1997
De Vecchi – Cerchiari,1999, I tempi dell’arte
Kleiner, 1992, Roman Sculpture
State of preservation
Good state of conservation of the body, missing the legs, the arms and the head
II cent a.D.