Campania, Italy - Architectural Heritage has just sold an enigmatic bronze sculpture known as the Dancing Faun which he photographed for SalvoNEWS in an unusually industrial setting. It was made by a bronze founder in Naples in the nineteenth century and is a good full size copy around 28ins high of the original ancient bronze.
The Dancing Faun was found during the excavation of one of the largest houses in Pompeii in 1830, incidentally witnessed by Goethe's son Julius just before he died of smallpox in Rome, of the House of the Faun which produced the richest haul found in the ash strewn town destroyed in 79AD when Vesuvius erupted. It was placed on the stone surround of the impluvium, a tessellated pool in the central courtyard designed to catch rainwater, and is now in the Naples archaeological museum. A bronze copy of the Dancing Faun can now be seen in the centre of the pool.
Pompeii was a large cosmopolitan Roman town with a diverse population and the House of the Faun was occupied by its wealthiest inhabitants, where gold jewellery and other artefacts were found, along with a fabulous mosaic of Alexander the Great defeating Darius III - deemed by experts to be one of the best Roman mosaics in Europe. The sculpture was clearly significant and Alexander the Great may be the key to unlocking its meaning.
Alexander III of Macedon (356 - 323 BC), was tutored by Aristotle, created an empire stretching from Greece and Egypt to India, was undefeated in battle and died in Babylon, his adopted capital. His conquests resulted in the spread of Greco-Buddhism and the founding of twenty cities - notably Alexandria in Egypt, dedicated to the god Serapis - the combination of the Egyptian Osiris and Babylonian Apis, who Alexander had worshipped.
Ptolemy, who was Alexander's most trusted general and his successor, became the pharaoh of Egypt and integrated Egyptian and Hellenist religions. The cult of Serapis appeared in Rome (and Pompeii) finally being banned by Theodophilus in 385AD.
The Dancing Faun, half-human half-goat, can be traced back to a centre of Greek sculpture and bronze production, most probably Alexandria, during the late-Hellenistic age, by which time fauns were no longer portrayed with the legs and hooves of a goat, but retained a short tail and horns to identify them as mythological creatures.
Fauns and satyrs represented the anthropomorphic embodiment of human traits - fear of forests and animals, fear of travelling in lonely or wild places, womanising (especially satyrs), uncivilised (especially fauns), and fondness of wine.
One of the two families who may have owned the House of The Faun are the Satrii, mentioned by Herodotus as 'solely of the Thracians who until today have preserved freedom and have an oracle of Dionysus. They had great skill in metalworking.' They were the chief workers of the gold and silver mines in the district. Herodotus is the only ancient writer who mentions the Satrae. Some scholars identify them with the Satyri (Satyrs), the attendants and companions of Dionysus in his revels, and also with the Centaurs.
Nineteenth century copies of the Dancing Faun normally sell for around £2,000 to £3,000.
Architectural Heritage Ltd
Story Type: Feature