Cast of the Dancing Faun, ?1781
RA Collection: Art
On free display in The Julia and Hans Rausing Hall
A faun makes music by simultaneously playing the ‘crotala’ (similar to cymbals) in his hands and the ‘scabellum’ or ‘croupezion’ under his right foot.
This is a plaster cast of the Dancing Faun, a marble sculpture first recorded in 1665, when Albert Rubens listed it as in the collection of the Grand Duke of Tuscany in Florence (the likelihood is that it had long been owned by the Medici). By 1688 the sculpture was in the Tribuna of the Uffizi. In September 1800 the sculpture was sent to Palermo along with other treasures to avoid plunder by the French army, but it was returned to the Tribuna in 1803.
Soon after its emergence from obscurity in the 17th century the Dancing Faun gained a reputation as one of the finest ancient sculptures in existence. Two other versions were excavated in Rome in the 1630s, and casts were made of the Uffizi faun from the 1680s onwards.
The head and arms were later additions to the sculpture. While the restoration work is no longer believed to have been carried out by Michelangelo (as was once supposed), it may well date from the 16th century.
Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, Taste and the Antique (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1981), pp.205-8
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