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Satyr from Althorp Castle, country home of the Spencer family, surfaces at Bonhams
The satyr is believed to have been purchased in England in the mid-1970s and comes to sale at Bonhams from a Californian private collection. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- A bust of a satyr from Althorp House, Northamptonshire, thought to have been acquired in Italy in the late 18th to early 19th Centuries by one of the Spencer Earls during a Grand Tour, will be sold at Bonhams next Antiquities sale on April 3rd in New Bond Street.

The rosso antico marble bust is composed of a Roman head of a satyr from the Flavian Period, late 1st Century A.D, thought to have been restored with a matching bust by an expert Italian sculptor in the late 18th to early 19th Century. It is estimated to sell for £200,000 to £300,000. The satyr is believed to have been purchased in England in the mid-1970s and comes to sale at Bonhams from a Californian private collection. Madeleine Perridge, Head of Antiquities at Bonhams says ‘It is a wonderful re-discovery of a rare and beautiful sculpture. The existence of the bust was known from a photograph taken at Althorp in 1973 but its present whereabouts were a mystery. We are delighted to present such a superb work of art at Bonhams.’

The life-sized sculpture, derived from an earlier Hellenistic prototype, depicts a youthful satyr turning to his left, his round face with dimpled full cheeks and a smiling slightly open mouth. He has a snub nose, his tiny horns emerging from his forehead above a heavy browline and his long pointed ears amongst thick wavy hair secured with a band. The bust stands 24½in (62.2cm) in height including its socle.

In ancient Greek mythology, satyrs were companions of the god Dionysus, the deity of fertility, the harvest, wine and its associated festivities. Depicted as animal-like men with tails, assine ears, goat-like horns and upturned snub noses, they are shown in Classical sculpture drinking, dancing, playing flutes and tambourines, and sporting with nymphs. The celebratory connotations of satyrs made them popular subjects for dining room decoration in Roman villas. Similar surviving marble satyrs have also been discovered in the gardens of Roman villas, including a rosso antico marble figure of a satyr which was found at the Emperor Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli in Italy.

Althorp in Northamptonshire was built in 1508 and is the Spencer family home. It houses the extensive Spencer art collection, formed over many centuries.

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