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.