The J. Paul Getty Museum

Dancing Faun

Object Details


Dancing Faun


Pietro Cipriani (Italian, about 1680 - before 1745)




Italy (Place Created)





Object Number:



143.5 cm (56 1/2 in.)

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Object Description

This dancing faun is now more precisely identified as a satyr. Satyrs are roguish figures from ancient mythology and literature known for their love of wine, music, and mischief. This satyr holds metal cymbala in his hands and wears a kroupezion attached to his sandal. The latter is a device with a metal plate that would have made a noise rather like a modern tap shoe. His faunlike features are visible in the tiny horns above his forehead, and in the small goat's tail at his rear. His head is bent over, absorbed in the music, and every muscle of his athletic body, from his deltoid muscles, his abdomen, to his calves, appears tense as he plays.

The artist's name is inscribed in Latin on the plinth, or supporting base, of the sculpture. The Dancing Faun--along with Cipriani's Venus--was created for display at Shirburn Castle in Oxfordshire, the seat or country house of the patron for these works. After casting, the artist destroyed the original plasters to prevent a second use, making the statues even more extraordinary. Whereas many such sculptures were displayed unprotected outdoors in gardens, the Dancing Faun and Venus were kept indoors. The condition of the bronze has therefore retained much of the freshness of its original appearance, without staining or pitting of the surface.

Cipriani's Faun is based on a Hellenistic statue that has been on display in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence since the second half of the 1600s. Such copies of Greco-Roman statuary were popular among contemporary wealthy art collectors who wanted their own versions of ancient art seen during their travels in Europe and Greece, on what was known as the "grand tour." This particular sculpture, however, takes the 'souvenir' type to the extreme, as it is a large, full-scale work, difficult to transport, and of such high artistic quality.

1724 - 1732

Thomas Parker, 1st earl of Macclesfield, English, 1666 - 1732 (Shirburn Castle, Oxfordshire, England), commissioned for him from Cipriani in Florence in 1722 through his son George Parker, by inheritance within the Parker family at Shirburn Castle.
Source: Connor, 1998, p. 26, refers to a series of letters from 1722-24 that discuss the commission of the Medici Venus and the Dancing Faun

1732 - 2005

Earls of Macclesfield, English, (Shirburn Castle, Oxfordshire, England) [sold, Christie's, London, December 1, 2005, lot 64, to Daniel Katz]

2005 - 2008

Daniel Katz Ltd. (London, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008.


Wright, Edward. Some observations made in travelling through France, Italy, &c. in the years 1720, 1721, and 1722. 2 vols. (London: Printed for Tho. Ward and E. Wicksteed, 1730), vol. 2, p. 1, p. 1.

Orrery, John Boyle. Letters from Italy, in the years 1754 and 1755, by the late Right Honourable John Earl of Corke and Orrery (London: printed for B. White, Horace's Head, Fleet-Street, 1773), p. 77.

Christie's, London. The Macclesfield Sculpture: The Fruits of Lord Parker's Grand Tour, 1720-22. December 1, 2005, pp. 58-71, lot 64, ill., cover ill.

Connor, T. P. "The fruits of a Grand Tour: Edward Wright and Lord Parker in Italy, 1720-22." Apollo 148 (1998), pp. 25-26, figs. 3, 4, 6.

Roettgen, Steffi. "La cultura dell'antico nella Firenze del Settecento: una proposta di lettura." In Studi di Storia dell'Arte 20 (2009), p. 187.