Head of a Satyr

by Michael Riddick

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HEAD OF A SATYR (No. 07 / Riddick collection)

Anonymous, Renaissance invention after the antique
Northern Italy (possibly Florence?); Probably ca. 1500-25
Bronze; 26.6 x 34.2 mm

Adam Weinberger (dealer, NYC, USA)
Mark Wilchusky (dealer-collector, NYC, USA)
Edward Lubin (dealer, NYC, USA)
Private collection (Berlin, Germany)

Contemporary cast. Dark patina, heavily rubbed. A pitted cast with a scratch along the lower jaw of the subject. Pierced at top.


The present plaquette is a freehand copy of an antique gem or possibly a copy after an earlier produced plaquette of the subject. Scholars have cited two plaquette casts likely taken from the original gem and known by surviving examples in Berlin (Inv. 2042) and another at the Civic Museum in Ravenna. A minority of debased circular casts are also known[1] as well as a circular incuse version also in Berlin (Inv. 2204), cast in reverse, and used as a matrix for book bindings. Anthony Hobson counts four examples of the plaquette design stamped onto antique book bindings, the earliest being a volume printed in Urbino, ca. 1486-88.

The present plaquette is a refined and remodeled ovular version, reasonably assigned to the early 16th century.[2] Without explanation, Francesco Rossi suggests a possible Florentine origin for these casts, presumably due to their quality and dating. The present example is one of the last documented in private hands with three in museums,[3] one in the legacy collection of the Chigi-Saracini family[4] and a final example in the Scaglia collection, probably destined for an institutional collection.

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1. Francesco Rossi documents these as a “Variant B” and counts four examples: Civic Museum in Belluno; Museo Nazionale del Bargello (Inv. 650 B); Cabinet des Medailles at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris; and one sold at auction in 2009, which the present author notes now forms part of the Ubertazzi collection.

2. Rossi’s Variant A.

3. Berlin (Inv. 2135); Museo Stibbert, Florence; British Museum (Inv. 1915.12-16,127). A fourth example was in Liepzig’s Grassimuseum, lost or destroyed during WWII.

4. Located at the Palazzo Chigi-Saracini in Siena.


Francesco Rossi (2011, Scaglia Collection); No. I.24; pp. 58, 517

Bertrand Jestaz (1997, Museo Civico di Belluno); p. 104, fig. 115

Giuseppe and Fiorenza Vannel Toderi (1996, Museo Nazionale del Bargello); No. 32, p. 30

Anthony Hobson (1988): Plaquettes on Bookbindings. Vol. 22. Studies in the History of Art. Italian Plaquettes. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; pp. 165-73

Luciana Martini (1985, Museo Nazionale di Ravenna); No. 13, p. 69

Ernst Bange (1922, Staatliche Museen Berlin); Nos. 96-98, pp. 14-15

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