Statuette Restored as Apollo with the Skin of Marsyas
“In Celaenae; the river Marsyas flows through the city and empties into the Maeander. It was here, according to the story, that Apollo flayed Marsyas after having defeated him in a contest of musical skill; he hung up his skin in the cave from which the sources issue, and it is for this reason that the river is called Marsyas.” (Xenophon, Anabasis, 1.2.)
Coming from the Giustiniani Collection, this work is an excellent marble representation of the myth of Marsyas and Apollo. Marsyas was famous for his mastery in playing the aulos, a double flute invented by the goddess Athena. Having become very skilled in playing, he decided to challenge the god Apollo to a musical competition, god of the arts and great lyre player. The god was declared the winner by the Muses and punished Marsyas for daring to challenge him, thinking he could triumph over the god of music. The statuette represents a pastiche of several ancient parts assembled.
The iconographic model became so famous that it was reproduced several times, especially by Caravaggio who, seeing the work in Palazzo Giustiniani, probably took it as a model for the creation of his David with the head of Goliath.
Inventory: MT 463
Material: White marble
Technique: Work sculpted through the use of: chisels (also square-tipped and toothed) rasps
Dating: Imperial age
Origin: Giustiniani Collection