Self-Portrait as Midas (also called the Sleeping Faun)

Object Details


Self-Portrait as Midas (also called the Sleeping Faun)


Jean-Joseph Carriès (French, 1855 - 1894)




France (Place Created)


1885 ?


Patinated plaster

Object Number:



34.5 × 34 × 23.5 cm (13 9/16 × 13 3/8 × 9 1/4 in.)

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The unusual feature of donkey's ears provides the clue to the identity of this disembodied head of an older man, with closed eyes and tilted to the side. He represents the mythological King Midas, a figure of legendary foolishness best known for a magical touch that turned all objects to gold. According to Ovid's Metamorphoses, Apollo punished Midas by giving him the ears of a donkey after he chose Pan rather than Apollo in a musical contest.

Jean-Joseph Carriès left the head oddly truncated, resting not on a torso nor even on a neck but rather on a mass of roughly handled plaster. This amorphous truncation expresses the inner spirit divorced from bodily form. As a self-portrait, the image forms an allegory of Carriès's life. Perceiving himself as foolish, bestial, and uncultured, he presented a thoroughly modern, powerfully intimate, yet ultimately debased representation.

Carriès formed this head, one of his most celebrated works, with plaster in a many-pieced mold. He then shellacked it to give it a patina resembling metal. He also made other versions in plaster, wax, clay, and bronze.

Images of the Artist (November 15, 2011 to February 12, 2012)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), November 15, 2011 to February 12, 2012