Spotlight: the Dancing Satyr, from Mazara del Vallo

This bronze work, discovered in 1998 off the coast of Mazara del Vallo, provides an exciting opportunity of study, in the light of the various approaches outlined in the preceding sections.

The figure is easily recognizable as a large statue of a young satyr with pointed ears and a hole to the rear, indicating the original presence of a tail. The satyr seems to be dancing in a pose often used for depictions of Pan and the satyrs on Attic vases of the 5th and 6th centuries BC. The figure's missing attributes cannot be identified with certainty, but they may have included a thyrsus (a long staff covered in ivy or vine leaves and topped by a pine cone) in the right hand, and a kantharos (a drinking-goblet) in the left, together with a panther skin slung over the left arm, swinging to the movement of the dance. However, marks on the right shoulder, together with traces of the original soldering and signs of repairs, suggest that modifications to the figure were carried out in Antiquity, transfering the panther skin to the right arm, where it was in contact with the shoulder and the left foot.

Most expert commentators identify the figure as a Roman work from the late Hellenistic period, or the early Empire. Others see it as an original Greek bronze, possibly Praxiteles's Satyr Periboetos (literally, the "celebrated Satyr" mentioned by Pliny).

An attribution to Praxiteles seems difficult in this context. However, this statue type probably originated during the late 4th century BC. What of the technique of the work itself? The chemical composition of the bronze, with a high lead content, would suggest that it was cast during the Roman period. The piece may, then, be a reproduction of an earlier work from the early Hellenistic period.