Barbarini Faun

Posted in Art in the world, Opinion by Adele Todd on October 12, 2007

Barberini Faun, marble copy of a bronze original, around 200 BC

I remember when I was doing Art history as a subject in college. We were doing the whole Greko Roman period and there was one sculpture called The Barbarini Faun. It was quite beautiful on paper, it was an action piece, and so the curve of his neck and his facial features were pronounced and this was memorable. Our teacher said that he was inebriated, and we looked at the work, shot from the back, and thought that as sculpture went, it was a very good piece. We were told to do sketches at the Brooklyn and other museums, and I went down to the sculpture section to do my home work.

Sculpture is always immediate. It is also always difficult to not want to touch what you see. The pieces were larger than life and as I wandered around I practically stepped into the line of vision of the Barbarini’s parted legs. I was so shocked that I felt my cheeks colour and my heart race. I felt embarrassed by such a sight.


After all, I had seen it in the tome of an art history book, I knew what it looked like? Why? I was being confronted with a larger than life naked man, stretched out in a sort of drunken ecstasy! He was completely removed from any posture of perfection. Instead he reflected an attitude of casualness and even weakness. Yet in his body there was the underlying awareness of sexuality, sensuality and excess as well.

When I dared to gaze back at the work, come on, get it together, you are an art student, these things are not supposed to shock you! I could not shake the first reaction, it kept coming and coming. I could not look away and yet I wanted to look away. He seemed to be making a spectacle of himself and me at the same time.

It was then that I realised how enmeshed in society I was, even though I felt that as an art student I was so apart. Somehow the fact that I did not bounce into naked imagery of men every day begged the question, then why this reaction to this one? Women have been seen in all manner of undress, but there are images that can still move, shock and titillate. I was experiencing it then with that sculpture.

I have thought back to the Barbarini Faun over the years, he represents my little lightening jolt. A moment when I saw for myself the power of Art or is it, the power of (Porn.)


5 Responses

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  1. Martin Vazquez said, on July 24, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    I have seen the copy in Paris of this magnificent sculpture, for me is perfection, is more beautiful that the David and I think is more impressive, suddenly, the cold marble comes alive whit this sculpture… was just awesome, and one of the most momerable moments of my life!

  2. resimler said, on August 14, 2008 at 9:48 am

    interesting statue… 🙂

  3. Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti said, on November 20, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    At 7 feet long, it is not much larger than life. Great work by an unknown artist. Luckily this sculpture was found way after The Catholic Church’s Great Castration and so it remains intact. The picture above is the one in Munich, right?

    • Lsabeti said, on January 27, 2011 at 9:26 pm

      RCC..Great castration…Oh no…Are you serious? oi..:/

  4. Ed-M said, on August 13, 2010 at 12:40 am

    A masterpiece and alluring pose! This sculpture looks like someone who just had or is about to receive something really wonderful… as a bottom. As Giovanni said, we’re lucky this sculpture wasn’t subjected to that mass outbreak of unjustifiable christ-psychosis (at least IMO) that he called the Great Castration.

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