"Satyr and Maid with Fruit Basket" is Rubens’s reply to the question of how we should imagine Baroque joie de vivre. Satyrs have a dual nature, meaning they are both human and animal, and thus symbolize a natural, unthinking approach to life that favours intoxicated enjoyment of the moment. They are part of the retinue of Dionysus, the god of wine, and actually play only a peripheral role in ancient myths.
Rubens’s goat-footed, horned satyr presents the viewer with an overflowing basket of fruit, fixing his opposite number with a diabolical grin. This type of presentation is in the tradition of Caravaggio’s "Boy with Grapes" (Galleria Borghese, Rome), whilst the satyr’s direct gaze at the viewer, and his facial type, are reminiscent of the "Head Study of a Bearded Man" in the Princely Collections, which could have been used here. Rubens expresses the sensuality that ancient myths bestowed on satyrs in the sturdy plasticity of the naked torso, emphasized by the light. The expressive face is powerfully modelled with complex shades of colour, the red cheeks indicating how much wine has been enjoyed. At his side is a maid, perhaps a bacchante, a female companion of Bacchus, of a similar nature. With her vine tendril, she seems to be playfully preventing the satyr from reaching the viewer.
The colourful quality of the painting is the result of Rubens’s visit to Italy, as are the strong contrasts between light and shade, which reflect his study of Caravaggio’s work. The picture is thus dated to the period after his return from Italy, around 1615.
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Peter Paul Rubens
Satyr and Maid with Fruit Basket, 1615
Oil on canvas
height 113 cm, width 71 cm
Private collection, on permanent loan to LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz-Vienna, Inv.-No. G006
Provenance: first recorded in 1830 in the Collection
Further works on display
Decius Mus relating his dream, 1616/1617
Decius Mus preparing for Death, 1616/1617
The Death of Decius Mus, 1616/1617
The Obsequies of Decius Mus, 1616/1617
The Dismissal of the Lictors, 1616/1617
The Interpretation of the Victim, 1616/1617
The Trophy, 1616/1617
The Assumption of the Virgin, c. 1637
Venus in Front of the Mirror, 1614/1615
Oil sketch of Mars and Rhea Silvia, c. 1616/1617
Mars und Rhea Silvia, c. 1616/1617
The Discovery of the Infant Erichthonius, c. 1616
The Lamentation, c. 1612
Christ Triumphant over Sin and Death, 1615/1622
Double Portrait of Albert and Nikolaus Rubens, c. 1626/1627
Portrait of Jan Vermoelen, 1616
Portrait of Clara Serena Rubens, c. 1616
Henry IV seizes the Opportunity to conclude Piece, 1628
The Victory of Henry IV at Coutras, 1628
The Consecration of Decius Mus, 1616/1617
The Obsequies of Decius Mus
Three Music-Making Angels, on the reverse side of St Joachim, 1615/1620
St. Catherine in the Clouds, 1620/1621
Four Music-Making Angels, on the reverse side of St Anne, 1615/1620
Apollo in the Chariot of the Sun, 1621/1625
The Conversion of St. Paul, 1601/1602
Perseus and Andromeda
The Virgin adorned with flowers, 1609/1610
Psyche taken up into Olympus, 1621
Landscape with Milkmaids and Cows, 1616
Allegory of war, 1628
The Hunt of Meleager and Atalanta, 1628 (?)
The Assumption of the Virgin, modello, 1637
Ganymede, 1611/1612
Diana´s Hunt, 1628
St. Francis of Assisi before the Crucified Christ, 1625
Portrait of a Monk (?)
Adoration of the Magi, 1609/1610
The Visitation, 1611/1612
Portrait of Nicolaas Rockox, 1615
Samson and Delilah, c. 1610
Related themes
Rubens in Wien
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