Detail of “Satyr Holding Putto,” unknown artist, bronze and cut stone, collection of Philbrook Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma


Bare-chested six-packed satyr,

torso strong, masculine, and beautiful,

his caprine lower half undepicted,

leaving his goat phallus to the viewer’s imagination,

lifts a nearly naked putto—the tiny bit of drape

calling attention to the nudity rather than masking it–

on his broad right shoulder, the satyr’s arms

forming an ellipse, right bent at elbow, so that

the putto’s left foot rests in the palm

of the satyr’s hand, the left arched overhead

to grasp the youngster’s upper arm,

that motion mimicked in reverse by the putto’s

right arm similarly bent toward head.

The bearded, balding satyr inclines his head

to look up at the boy, the goat-man’s eyes

full of mischief, his lusty grin hard to read—

lust for life or lust for something darker?

Should we interpret the putto as outward

and visible sign of the satyr’s inward and spiritual child,

as an object of the satyr’s lust, merely as a child

reared in nature’s ways by Silenus’s band?

Clearly the faun fawns over the child,

but with what intent?


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper



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