Collection Online

Audio Guide - Child

Torso of Pan, 1st century B.C E. - 1st century C.E.

Artist: Unknown Artist, Greco-Roman

Medium: Marble

Object: 18 1/2 x 15 x 8 in. (47 x 38.1 x 20.3 cm)
Base: 4 1/2 x 12 3/4 x 12 3/4 in. (11.4 x 32.4 x 32.4 cm)

Credit Line: Gift of the Brooks League

Object Number: 89.42

On View

Robet Haber and Company, New York, New York, 1989

In 211 B.C.E., the Roman General Marcellus, conqueror of the exceptionally wealthy Greek city of Syracuse, returned to Rome not only with the usual spoils of war, but also with the finest examples of art. Following Marcellus’ introduction of Greek art, the Romans enthusiastically began collecting it, and if a particular Greek original was unobtainable, a copy was commissioned. Most Greek sculpture was originally cast in bronze, but when several copies were requested, Roman artists often employed marble, a less expensive material. After the copies were carved, the original bronze sculptures were often melted down and the metal used for military purposes. The Torso of Pan dates to the Greco-Roman period (30 B.C.E.-C.E. 312), suggesting it is likely a Roman copy of a Greek original.

 

Pan was the mischievous god of the forest and meadows, worshipped in ancient times by shepherds who wanted their flocks to flourish. He had the legs, horns, and tail of a goat; the body of a man; and a long shaggy beard. Scholars identify the subject of this piece as the Greek god Pan, primarily from the small tail located at the base of the spine. Additional evidence comes from the resemblance to two complete sculptures–located in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples and the Museo Nazionale in Rome–of Pan teaching a young student to play the pipes. It is likely that the Brooks sculpture would also have been part of a similar sculptural group; however, its original composition is unknown.

 

The torso is captured in a twisting motion with a forward bend at the waist. Pan’s left shoulder extends upward while his right dips down, counterbalanced by the opposite movement of his hips. The result is a series of small creases of skin on the lower left side of the sculpture and a broad sweep of musculature on the right. From behind, the curve of the body appears more pronounced in the arc of the spine and the frontward roll of the shoulders. The exquisite torso exemplifies the Greek admiration of the human form. The exaggeration of movement, sweeping lines, and strong contrast of light and shadow are all characteristics of Hellenistic art (323-30 B.C.E.), which was especially prized and frequently copied by the Romans.