This extraordinary figure of Pan, carved of white marble with some light grey veining, was made in the first half of the first century A.D. as a table leg or support. Miraculously, it has survived the ages together with its original mount, a rectangular plinth and rectangular pillar, both in black slate with geometric inlays of grey marble. The surface of the stone betrays ample evidence of its long residence in the sea: there are numerous barnacles on the surface and the remains (and ghosts) of a seashell on back of Pan's left shoulder. The elegant contrasting inlays attest to the Roman fondness for colored stones.
The figure of Pan is complete. The half man-half goat denizen of the forest was one of the most free-spirited beings of the ancient pantheon. His strength of will and spirit are made evident by both his posture and the sculpture’s style. He stands boldly, even defiantly, with his body proudly displayed: his chin is thrust outward and made even more pronounced by his upswept, crescent beard; his chest and arms pulse with energy. The robust, almost “cubist” manner in which he is carved serves to further emphasize his vitality. This is no soft Apollo, but an unbridled creature of nature. As Pan's province was the flocks and their fertility, his personal virility is an important aspect of his nature.
Pan's goatish aspect is made evident by his carefully observed goat legs, as well as a tail which wraps around at his right side. His long, pointed ears disappear into the curls above them. It does not appear that he had horns. The pose of Pan, with his chin thrust out, head turned slightly to his left, shoulders subtly twisted to his right, and pelvis and legs turned again to his left, creates a spiralling torsion. This is reminiscent of the pose of the famous “Dancing Faun” from the House of the Faun in Pompeii. Here, however, Pan's arms are not raised, but clasped in the back with his hands cupped over a sphere of marble, perhaps an unworked bunch of grapes.
To Pan's right there is a tree stump with an animal skin draped upon it. This skin has the head of a lynx with a cloven hoof. Though it may depict a mythological animal, it may also refer to both the lynx skin Pan often carries as a symbol of the wild creature he is, and to the fawn skin cloak which he sometimes wears and which he snatched from Dionysos. In creating this superb sculpture, the ancient artist did not make an ordinary table leg but rather a sculpture of outstanding power and importance. The figure is beautifully conceived and rendered in its torsion, muscular tension, and exquisite detailing. This piece relates to two other known Pans – one in the Cosa Museum and the other in the Musée de Compiegne, neither of which compares to our Pan in terms of quality, conception, or execution.
Available Upon Request
New York, on loan at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, from January 2007 to June 2017
New York Times, 18 January 1987, p. 32 (Illustrated Advertisement of the Merrin Gallery)