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Plate XLII.


p. 84

A Satyr and Hermaphrodite.



A SATYR has surprised a nymph asleep in a solitary place. He prepares to violate her, and already having lifted up the veil that envelops her, he casts a profane look on her most secret charms; but imagine his confusion on perceiving that he has accosted a hermaphrodite! Full of shame and vexation, he seeks to fly; but the hermaphrodite, whose sleep was doubtless only a feint, tries to hold him, and seems himself to promise him pleasures of which he had not dreamt.

In order that nothing may be wanting to complete the obscenity of this painting, we observe in the background a Hermes, crowned with the petasus, bearing in one hand the pedum, or pastoral crook, and in the other the drinking-vessel, in the shape of a horn, called κρατὴρ.

As we have already remarked, these Hermes, with gigantic phalluses, were placed at the entrance of gardens to keep away robbers and sorcerers. They generally bore an inscription the idea of which was as pleasant as the expression was unseemly. We will quote two, taken at random from the collection entitled Priapeia:

Fœmina si furtum faciet mihi virque puerque,
Hæc cunnum, caput hic, præbeat ille nates.

Pr. Carm., xxi.

p. 85

Quod sim ligneus, ut vides, Priapus,
Et falx lignea, ligneusque penis:
Prendam te tamen et tenebo prensam:
Totamque hanc sine fraude, quantacumque est,
Tormento, citharaque tensiorem,
Ad costam tibi septimam recondam.

Pr. Carm., cv.

This fresco is not without merit, and the outlines are soft and well drawn, the poses agreeable, and the figures rich in expression; but the Satyr is evidently too short, and the painter has misunderstood the laws of perspective. The contact of the two persons who form both foreground and background makes this disparity still more noticeable.

The hermaphrodite is reclining on a leopard's skin; his mantle is of a beautiful sky-blue colour, and behind him may be perceived an elegant cushion. The colouring of this fresco is truly wonderful considering its great age.

Next: Plate XLIII: A Faun and Bacchante