Magnificent Roman statue on view at Nelson-Atkins represents start of museum partnership with Rome

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Magnificent Roman statue on view at Nelson-Atkins represents start of museum partnership with Rome
Fauno rosso, Roman, 2nd century C.E. Red marble, 66 inches. Sovraintendenza ai Beni Culturali di Roma Capitale – Musei Capitolini.

KANSAS CITY, MO.- A spectacular example of ancient Roman sculpture will be on view at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City from June 22 through Sept. 29 in Kirkwood Hall. The Fauno rosso, a red marble sculpture of a satyr (also called “faun”), was given to the Capitoline Museums in 1746 by Pope Benedict XIV. It was commissioned by Hadrian, the great emperor of Rome and it was most likely sculpted by Aristeas and Papias of Aphrodisias in modern-day Turkey. The Capitoline is now lending the sculpture to the Nelson-Atkins.

The loan marks the beginning of a long-term relationship between the Nelson-Atkins and the Capitoline Museums, a group of art and archeological museums in Piazza del Campidoglio, on top of Capitoline Hill in Rome, Italy.

“We are delighted to have this arresting masterpiece as it crosses the Atlantic for the first time,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, CEO and Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “The grandeur and the majesty of Kirkwood Hall is the perfect backdrop to appreciate and enjoy this work. It is an appropriate space that will transport us to the city of Rome, with whom we are launching this partnership and the start of a great relationship.”

The Fauno rosso loan is part of a broad program of exchanges and cultural events between Rome and the United States that was launched in Washington, D.C. in 2011 called The Dream of Rome. The program finds nowadays new support in Enel Green Power, the Italian company devoted to worldwide development of energy generation from renewables, which entered in a partnership with the Capitoline Museums, along with the Knights of Columbus. Through The Dream of Rome, some of Rome’s magnificent masterpieces will be on display in prestigious museums in the U.S. in cities such as Washington, D.C., San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Boston.

Claudio Parisi Presicce, Director of Capitoline Museums, commented: “We are thrilled and honored of the long-term relationship we are building with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, based on the awareness of the strong and ancient link between the American and the Italian people. Our relationship is just beginning and it appears to be extremely valuable as it will be a harbinger of joint activities and reciprocal cultural exchanges.”

The Fauno rosso raises a cluster of grapes in his right hand; he holds in his left a cudgel used by shepherds. A fawn skin tied at his right shoulder covers part of his chest and supports two pomegranates and a bunch of grapes. To his left a goat looks up at him and rests one leg on a wicker basket. To the satyr’s right is a supporting tree stump with shepherd’s pipes hanging from it.

The Fauno rosso seems to have stopped midway in his stride as he excitedly turns his head up to the raised bunch of grapes. His mouth is slightly opened in delight and his hair is unkempt, a reflection of his wild nature. His left leg is extended and the foot turns to his left; his straight right leg supports most of his weight and so his right hip juts out suggestively.

“What a great privilege to have a work commissioned by one of the most powerful and most learned rulers in ancient history, the Emperor Hadrian,” said Robert Cohon, curator, Art of the Ancient World at the Nelson-Atkins. “This magnificent work was made for his personal pleasure and installed in his villa in Tivoli. Just as we see the sculpture today, Hadrian and members of his court would have seen it then. With this exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins, we cross enormous gaps of time and can enter into Hadrian’s world.”

Fauno rosso is sculpted out of red marble rather than the commonly used white marble. This suggests that the satyr has drunk so much wine that he is as red as the grapes he has consumed.

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