The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Inkstand in the Form of a Satyr
  • Attributed to Desiderio da Firenze (active between: 1532 - 1545)
  • Inkstand in the Form of a Satyr
  • Padua, Italy
  • mid 16th century
  • Inkstand
  • Bronze, gold and varnish, gilded
  • Height: 24.8 cm
  • Inscription: ' V / MO'
  • S68
  • Sixteenth Century Gallery
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Satyrs, half-human figures with grotesque faces with horns and hairy goats’ legs, were popular not only among the Romans but also in the art of the Renaissance, when artists consciously sought to emulate ancient Greek and Roman subjects. Followers of Bacchus, the god of wine, satyrs were, with their unbridled passions, a bridge between the world of men and that of animals and monsters. The great Paduan sculptor and maker of bronzes Andrea Riccio was able, like almost no other artist of the Renaissance, to capture the mysterious, disturbing essence of the ancient pagan world. Although he himself appears to have made relatively few bronzes, his designs continued to be copied and adapted by his followers after his death. A group of bronzes, including this model of satyr, were produced in a single workshop which seems to have had some form of access to Riccio’s models. It has recently been suggested that these bronzes might be the work of a mysterious artist, Desiderio da Firenze, who is thought to have been a member of Riccio’s workshop towards the end of the older sculptor’s life. The sculpture is in fact a functional inkstand, the large vase held by the satyr an inkwell and a candleholder held in his left hand. Scholars and university professors appear, at least in Padua, to have been the most important customers for objects of this type which would typically have been used in studies. Most unusually, the inkstand retains the gilt-bronze base with which it was probably equipped in the 18th century, by which time its origins had almost certainly been forgotten and instead, like almost all Renaissance bronzes at the time, it had come to be regarded as a Greek or Roman antiquity.