Three Figures after an antique relief

WAG 4161


This drawing seems to copy part of a sculpted stone relief showing the "Uncovering of Ariadne", on a 3rd Century A.D. Roman Dionysus/Bacchus Sarcophagus or coffin, now much weatherbeaten and in Blenheim Park. The sarcophagus was formerly owned by the Cavalier de Massimis and in the Palazzo della Valle, Rome from at least the 1540s, until it was sold to Cardinal Medici in 1584 and later acquired at the beginning of the eighteenth century by the Duke of Marlborough, where it was remodelled as a fountain. The theme of the relief is the finding of Ariadne, and the figures that are included on the sculpture are to the left of Ariadne, Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and fertility, and accompanying satyrs and maenads (the female equivalent of satyrs). The three figures shown in the Walker's drawing are part of the relief, Bacchus (on the far right) a satyr in the centre and a dancing maenad (on the left), who on the relief is playing cymbals. The sculpted relief was parrticulalry popular with artists and there are 13 other copy drawings after it made in the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, at least four of which were by the Italian artist Girolamo da Carpi (1501-1556), who worked in Rome in the 1520s. According to an old inscription recorded on an old mount, which was removed in 1961, the drawing supposedly came from William Roscoe's collection and was attributed to Baccio Bandinelli. But none of the descriptions of the Bandinelli drawings sold by Roscoe through the auction house of Thomas Winstanley on 23rd September 1816, match the image on WAG 4161. The present suggested attribution made in 1967 that the drawing might possibly be by "an imitator ... of Parmigianino" is due to Philip Pouncey (1910-1990), the Italian drawings specialist at he British Museum and Sotheby's. A more recent attribution has been suggested as by the Italian artist Girolamo da Carpi (1501-1556), who is known to have made at least four copy drawings of details from the sarcophagus.