Benedetto Montagna

Woman and Satyr with Two Cupids

c. 1507-1515
Benedetto, son of Bartolomeo Montagna, the leading artist of the School of Vicenza, began engraving around 1500. This work appears to have been inspired by a humanist interest in the allegorical contrast of virtus and voluptas (virtue and pleasure). The robes and turban worn by the central figure suggest she may be an Old Testament sibyl or prophetess. She holds a leash attached to the forelock of the satyr at the right, whose crestfallen expression implies involuntary captivity. The notion that knowledge or philosophy will keep lower instincts at bay is reversed in the symbolism of the two cupids holding a bird at left. The bird may represent the Holy Spirit, or possibly the freedom of the human soul, here overcome by love.
Title
Woman and Satyr with Two Cupids
Date
c. 1507-1515
Medium
Print
Materials
engraving on laid paper
Dimensions
16.9 x 12.2 cm; plate: 16.6 x 11.8 cm
Nationality
Italian
Credit line
Purchased 1964
Accession number
14501