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The study is for the faun in the Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne who blows a horn while he strides alongside Silenus to support him on his donkey. The Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne is thought to be the first major part of the Farnese ceiling to be frescoed. Since it was Annibale's practice to refine the details as he went along rather than planning the whole decoration at once, the drawings for the Triumph of Bacchus can be counted among the earliest for the project.
Much admired, this drawing was exhibited for a long time in the Louvre and the original blue of the paper has faded to gray. It is easy to understand why it was held in such high esteem, for the life and energy of the figure is impressive. The pose, with its jaunty counterpoise, the twist of the body, and the bounce in the step, is one of the most memorable in the Gallery. Annibale played with the contours, having begun the study with both legs farther forward, and the multiple outlines enhance the sense of action in the drawing.
A precursor to this figure appears in the Albertina modello (cat. 42) and in one of the hasty ideas for the Triumph presented in three parts; in both the pipes are double and held with two hands.1 A rather anonymous attendant supporting Silenus appears in the Albertina modello in the position that would be occupied by the faun in the final composition. No other preparatory study is known for the faun, who is so authoritatively realized in this sheet. The precise and definitive rendering, with the lighting carefully plotted and shadows meticulously hatched and crosshatched, was perfectly suited for translation to the full-scale cartoon (cat. 47). Annibale was surely mindful of the final composition when he drew this for he sharply truncated the faun's shoulder, in the manner of a sculptured bust, where it would be obscured by Silenus' arm in the fresco.
It is interesting to note that compared to the powerful, monumental drawings for the nudes, which were done later in the cycle (cats. 59, 60), this one is more conscientiously detailed, is articulated with shorter strokes, and conveys a tight-knit elasticity in the physique.
The taut, detailed musculature, almost knobby in the torso, is
reminiscent of examples of antique sculpture that Annibale knew quite well.
For example, the Farnese owned a faun with infant Bacchus on his shoulder,
which was installed in one of the niches in the Gallery.2 While the pose is
not similar, the articulation of the anatomy is, and the Bacchic subject
may have inspired Annibale's interest.
1. Musée du Louvre, inv. 7185; repr. Martin 1965, fig. 158. The double pipes held with both hands appear also in Perino's drawing for the Farnese Casket.
2. Naples, Museo Nazionale; Riebesell 1989, fig. 16. The statues are recorded in engravings after the Gallery by Pietro Aquila.
Francesco Angeloni; Pierre Mignard; Antoine Coypel; Charles-Antoine Coypel; bequeathed by him to the French royal collection, 1752; Musée du Louvre (marks partially trimmed: Lugt 1899 and 2207), inv. 7316
Paris 1797, no. 22; Paris 1802, no. 48; Paris 1838, 1841, 1845, no. 123; Paris 1866, no. 158; Bologna 1956, no. 154, pl. 51; Paris 1961, no. 61; Paris 1988c, no. 32 (repr. mislabeled 31)
Tietze 1906-1907, 118; Martin 1965, 206, 255-256, no. 65, fig. 172