The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Inkstand with a Female Satyr and her Child
  • Workshop of Severo Calzetta da Ravenna (c. 1465/75 - before 1538)
  • Inkstand with a Female Satyr and her Child
  • Ravenna, Italy
  • mid 16th century
  • Inkstand
  • Bronze
  • Height: 23.5 cm
  • S67
  • Sixteenth Century Gallery
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This charming composition is a writing stand, equipped with an inkwell in the form of the upturned mollusc shell, a candle-holder held by the satyress and, in the tree trunk with its open holes, a place for the storage of quill pens. It is a typical object to have been owned and used by a Renaissance scholar, who would no doubt also have especially appreciated the classical subject matter. Satyrs - half-men, half-goats - were stock figures in Greek and Latin literature and art and became equally popular in the Renaissance, being generally symbolic of savage and unbridled excess. However aound 1500 wild men started to be seen for a short while in a new light, reflecting interest in primitivism, at the start of the age of exploration. Thus satyrs began to be depicted together with their families, and it is possible that this inkstand, with the satyres and baby satyr, was once accompanied by a figure of a standing male satyr. The inkstand is a characteristic product of the workshop of Severo Calzetta, known as Severo da Ravenna, who trained in Padua but spent most of his career working in the city of Ravenna, where he developed a successful business producing bronzes in large numbers. Utensils such as his inkstands were produced as separately cast components which, as here, were screwed together to create the finished product. Many examples of the satyress inkstand survive but very few which are absolutely intact. In this example, the candleholder is a later replacement.