A new self-portrait of Michelangelo? The statue of Pan at the Casino dell’Aurora in Rome. Part III: Reception

By Hatice Köroglu Çam (Rutgers ’22)

‘Pan’ attributed to Michelangelo at the Casino dell’Aurora. Collection †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome. Photo: T. Corey Brennan (October 2022)


In the garden of the Casino dell’Aurora in Rome, a superbly executed 16th-century statue with short horns, pointed ears, goat-like legs, an animal pelt, and an erect phallus explicitly displays how its sculptor was fascinated by classical mythology. This life-size Pan was exhibited in several different places in the area of the Villa Ludovisi since the 17th century, before landing in its present position against the southeast façade of the Casino. Starting in the late 18th century, for about 100 years the statue was commonly attributed to Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), though the identification seems largely forgotten today.

My first post “A new self-portrait of Michelangelo? The statue of Pan at the Casino dell’Aurora in Rome. Part I: Correspondences” defended the traditional attribution of the Ludovisi Pan to Michelangelo by presenting numerous correspondences between this Pan and the master’s well-known works of art, including the Moses, the David, and his drawing The Dream of Human Life; these provide ample evidence that this statue shows Michelangelo’s artistic style and language. Most significantly, the very close resemblance between the facial depiction of the Ludovisi Pan and the mask at the center of the box in Michelangelo’s Dream (ca. 1533)—widely considered to be a self-portrait of the master—reinforces the attribution to Michelangelo and indeed suggests that this statue is Michelangelo’s satirical self-portrait.

Left: ‘Pan’ attributed to Michelangelo at the Casino dell’ Aurora. Collection †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome (photo by the author). Right: Detail of Michelangelo, Il Sogno (The Dream)

My second post, “Part II: Testimonia (sketches, earlier inventories)” examined a red-chalk drawing by Michelangelo from Frankfurt’s Städel Museum, which I argued conveys quite close similarities between the facial depiction of the Pan and that of a figure on the left side of the Frankfurt sheet. Part II showed also a remarkable connection between this Frankfurt drawing and an unusually significant representation of the Ludovisi Pan by Hamlet Winstanley (1723) at Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

Left: detail of Michelangelo, Grotesque Heads and Other Studies (recto) ca. 1525, Städel Museum, Frankfurt. Right: Hamlet Winstanley, Statue of Pan (1723), Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Credit: L. C. Bulman, Georgian Group Journal 12 (2002) 64

Here I also stressed that examining the statue of Pan through the mirror of the 18th-century drawings and sketches gives us a chance to compare this statue’s former and present states, which show its slow deterioration. I considered representations of the Ludovisi Pan in drawings by Bernardino Ciferri (ca. 1710-30), Pompeo Batoni (ca. 1727-1730), and Antonio Canova (1780), as well as historical photographs of the statue from 1885. In sum, I came to the conclusion that this statue is literally melting away in front of the world, as it stands outside in the garden of the Casino dell’Aurora, unprotected and in fact underestimated.

The most important contribution of my Part II was a review of Ludovisi and Boncompagni Ludovisi inventory records of the 17th and 18th centuries. Based on the information from the statue’s first appearance in a family inventory, that of 1633, I surmised that the first location of the Ludovisi Pan was in or near the Villa’s “Labyrinth” (i.e., a wooded sculpture garden, in front of the Palazzo Grande) in a niche formed by an elevated sarcophagus and lid. On further reflection, in the light of the description by inventories (1633-1733) of the statue’s position between two tall cypress trees, confirmed by early maps and guidebooks, it seems that the Pan’s first location is not the Labyrinth proper. It was located further north, against the Aurelian Wall from the beginning. Indeed, the 1641 and 1733 inventories show the Pan at a location against the Aurelian Wall in what we may call the “niche” formed by an elevated sarcophagus. Also, the 1749 inventory shows a high evaluation of the Ludovisi Pan, namely as 4000 scudi.

The purpose of this post however is to gather many important testimonies, from the 17th century to the 20th century, in forms that range from private diaries to public guidebooks, to convey all the reactions to the Ludovisi Pan I could find, and trace the origin and development of its attribution to Michelangelo. I will also discuss at some length the primary subject matter of this statue—the erect phallus—because this work, which closely engages with the language of antiquity, faced difficulties in reception specifically related to its problematic subject matter.

Display of the ‘Pan’ in the garden of the Casino dell’Aurora before the 2009 renovation campaign conducted by Prince Nicolò and Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi. Above: ca. 1980, as illustrated in A. Schiavo, Villa Ludovisi e Palazzo Margherita (Rome 1981). Below: 2008, in image from the collection of †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome

In fact, here I will argue that it was the Pan’s erect phallus that negatively affected its placement and presentation—from at least the early 18th century exhibited with a fig leaf, and eventually positioned behind a tree—at different locations on the property of the Villa Ludovisi. Moreover, I aim to show that the phallus is what prevented this sculpture from getting proper recognition, which in turn directly affected its attribution to Michelangelo. Squeamishness about subject matter overshadowed all the stylistic similarities between Michelangelo’s works and Pan, derailed its scholarly acceptance, and caused the sculpture to be abandoned to its present fate.

I can quickly summarize the history of the reception of the statue, which falls in three phases. Though the statue of Pan certainly formed part of the Ludovisi collection by 1633, and in the later 17th and early 18th centuries is often mentioned and praised, it takes almost a century and a half after the death of Ludovico Ludovisi for us to find explicit attribution of this work to Michelangelo. The origin of the references to Michelangelo at most predates the 1760s. Joseph Jerome Le Francois de LaLande (writing in 1765-66 and published in 1769) states that this statue was already being recognized as Michelangelo’s work prior to his visit to the Villa Ludovisi, but he dismissed it. Johann Jacob Volkmann (1770) follows him in his skeptical identification of the Pan. However, Jacques Lacombe’s Journal encyclopédiquedictionary (1775) is the first unqualified attribution of the Pan to Michelangelo. That was followed by Dominique Magnan, a learned French abbot of Rome’s Trinità dei Monti convent, in 1779.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the attribution to Michelangelo is common: Carlo Fea (1822), Stefane Piale (1826), Antonio Nibby (1841), Joseph Gwilt (1842), Giuseppe Robello (1854), L’Abbe Moyne (1855), Edmond Lafond (1856), and Emile Montegut (1870). How did these visitors suddenly all know the Pan belonged to Michelangelo? The Boncompagni Ludovisi, Professor T. Corey Brennan has suggested to me, may have put the title “Michelangelo” on or near the Pan, and so visitors consistently started reporting it as Michelangelo’s work.

In 1836, Ernst Zacharias Platner noted in detail the sculptural art of the Villa Ludovisi, published in his book Beschreibung der Stadt Rom III 2 (published 1838). In surveying the area of the Villa against the city wall, he specifically described the Great Battle Sarcophagus as being located inside a structure with “four granite columns” and offers a very brief analysis of the colossal bust of Alexander the Great. Significantly, Platner identifies the statue of Pan as being located at the top of an avenue against the Aurelian Wall, dating it as a 16th-century statue. He furthermore described Pan’s positioning within a niche “supported by columns.” However, his interpretation of the statue’s identification is questionable as he failed to provide any arguments for his assertion that the Pan is not Michelangelo’s work.

In his testimony, Platner stated bluntly “The statue of Pan, also under a gabled roof supported by columns, a very mediocre work, probably of the sixteenth century, is very wrongly attributed to Michelagnolo” (“Die Bildsaule eines Pan, ebenfalls unter einem von Saulen getragenen Giebeldache, ein sehr mittelmalsiges Werk, vermouthlich aus dem 16ten Jahrhundert, wird sehr mit Unrecht dem Michelagnolo zugeschrieben.”)

Platner’s interpretation is echoed in the testimonies of two other noted German scholars, Jacob Burckhardt (Der Cicerone, 1855) and Theodor Schreiber (Die antiken Bildwerke der Villa Ludovisi in Rom, 1880), who likewise also dismissed the attribution to Michelangelo in a sentence, without argument. While Schreiber seems to acknowledge the stylistic similarity of the statue to Michelangelo’s works of art (“Michelangelesque”), Burckhardt considered this Pan simply to be the work of one of Michelangelo’s followers. No scholars since the late nineteenth century have included the Pan among Michelangelo’s genuine works. Indeed, as we shall see, the scholarship on this statue from the dissolution of the Villa Ludovisi in 1885 to the present day fills not quite two pages.

Initial display of the Pan, and basic issues of attribution

Theodor Schreiber (1880) in a useful map shows the original plots of Ludovisi property and identifies which parts were bought by Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, and from whom. As Kim J. Hartswick explains, “within five months of his uncle’s election” as Pope Gregory XV on 9 February 1621, “Ludovico began negotiations for the purchasing of several parcels of land on the Pincio”. He proceeded from west to east. First (3 June 1621) he purchased from Cardinal Francesco del Monte, for ten thousand scudi, the future Casino dell’Aurora, and its surrounding vineyard, and then in the next month a smaller vineyard to its northeast owned by one Leonora Cavalcanti. Next (5 February 1622) came the adjacent large vigna to the east with its “Palazzo Grande”, owned by Duke Giovanni Antonio Orsini. Third, in 1623, Ludovisi bought from the Carmelite monks of Santa Maria in Traspontina another vineyard, to the east of the ex-Orsini estate. “The extent of the cardinal’s property”, as Hartwick notes, drawing on the 1670 map by Giovanni Battista Falda, “was about forty-seven acres, extending from the via di porta Pinciana to the via di porta Salaria.”

Map showing constituent elements of the Villa Ludovisi as it stood in the mid-nineteenth century. by T. Schreiber Die antiken Bildwerke der Villa Ludovisi in Rome (1880). Elements east of the red line, which corresponds precisely to today’s Via Piemonte, were added only after the death of Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi in 1632.

Documents from the administration of the Villa Ludovisi and testimonies from especially the guidebooks show us that the Pan moved four times within this area of the Villa, for reasons that can be at least partly explained. For the Pan’s first and original location, inventories of the Villa Ludovisi offer the primary documentary evidence. The 1633 inventory states that the satyr was “between two cypresses” and under an elevated sarcophagus, and the 1733 inventory repeats these “two cypresses” as the statue’s location.

Plan of the vigna Orsini, Carlo Maderno, 1622 (future Ludovisi estate), from Kim J. Hartswick, The Gardens of Sallust (2004) 56. Maderno’s rendition of the obelisk’s remains is indicated here by the red circle; the red arrow points at his detail of the two tall cypresses.

As it happens, Carlo Maderno’s 1622 plan of the vigna Orsini—at the moment Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi was expanding his property eastward and absorbing it into his estate—takes pains to show two tall cypresses against the Aurelian Wall. The map offers remarkable visual evidence, for the twin cypresses are precisely at the top of the path later named the “Viale del Satiro” which ran north from the Orsini “Palazzo Grande”, through the middle of the Labyrinth, past a large broken obelisk (shown by Maderno, and now placed before Trinità dei Monti), and up to the Roman wall. And so this description shows us that the Pan “between two cypresses” in 1633 was against the Aurelian wall. Additionally, Boncompagni Ludovisi family archivist Giuseppe Felici in his Villa Ludovisi in Roma (1952) notes in the documents that the road along the wall—today’s Via Campania—is also sometimes called “Viale del Satiro”.

Plan of the Orsini property by Stefano du Pérac. 1577. From Kim J. Hartswick, The Gardens of Sallust (2004) 22.

The earliest map of the relevant area—by Stefano du Pérac (1577)—shows the Orsini property as totally uncultivated, with no discernible system of paths, but lots of antiquities scattered about such as the broken obelisk. Maderno on his 1622 map shows a path precisely along the line of the future “Viale del Satiro”, and the property to the east of it as now cultivated. But he does not show a statue or sarcophagus-niche at the end of the path between the two tall trees near the wall. Falda’s 1670 map fully shows the extension of the Ludovisi property to incorporate the ex-Orsini vigna, and also shows the broken obelisk just beyond the labyrinth—now in a cultivated field. At the end of the path, one can see a ”niche” formed by a sarcophagus.

Plan of the Villa Ludovisi, published in G.B. Falda, Li giardini di Roma…con le loro piante alzate e vedute in prospettiva (1670)

Presumably, Ludovico Ludovisi before 1633 created that “niche” between the two tall cypresses, and placed the Pan inside it. Given that the Orsini had already started the Labyrinth, constructed a network of paths up to the Aurelian Wall (including one precisely along the lines of the future “Viale del Satiro”), and clearly had antiquities on their land, this raises the possibility (suggested to me by Professor T. Corey Brennan) that the Pan was already on the Orsini property, and came to Cardinal Ludovisi as part of the estate with the broken obelisk and other statuary.

What is clear is that Ludovico Ludovisi expanded the ex-Orsini Labyrinth, doubling it in size, and filling it with many dozens of statues. Whatever the origins of the Pan, Ludovico Ludovisi valued the statue so much that he constructed a niche for it under a sarcophagus ensemble, the latter apparently once part of the Cesarini collection (= Schreiber [1880] nos. 212-213). Friedrich Matz (Antike bildwerke in Rom I [1881 p. 336] gives a very detailed description of this sarcophagus and the lid (showing a married couple), today in Rome’s Villa Ada.

Louis-Hippolyte Lebas, view (1806) of the Labyrinth and the ‘Viale del Satiro’ in the Villa Ludovisi, looking north toward an aedicula at its terminus that housed the ‘Pan’ for much of the 19th century. Credit: L’École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts

Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi died in 1632, having demonstrably given the statue of Pan a prominent position on the ex-Orsini property in a “niche” against the Aurelian Wall, at the end of a long pathway that extended due north from the entrance of the main residential palace in his new Villa, the Palazzo Grande. He evidently did not consider the statue to be the work of Michelangelo, nor does anyone else attribute it to the master until the 1760s. Why was this identification so slow to come?

One of the reasons clearly is that people were convinced the statue was ancient, just like the Della Valle satyrs that I discussed in my Part I. When the Pan entered the Ludovisi collection in 1621 or shortly afterward, probably it was not identified as a Michelangelo, or forgotten it was a Michelangelo, or not believed it was a Michelangelo. In the 1633 Ludovisi inventory, modern artists are identified—including Michelangelo, specifically his termini in the Palazzo Grande—and there is no reason his name would not be mentioned if known.

The Pan in its “niche” in the 17th and 18th centuries

The earliest depiction of the “niche” with its sarcophagus that we know Ludovico Ludovisi created to house the Pan statue is from 1650, on a bird’s-eye view map, looking west to east, by Flemish artist Conrad Lauwers. Clearly visible on the map is the long avenue extending from the entrance of the Palazzo Grande—at least later known as “Viale del Satiro”—leading to an assemblage with two-by-two columns in front supporting a flat roof, and two taller ones in the back, positioned against the Aurelian Wall. There is no effort to show unusually tall trees here or elsewhere. In the Louwer’s view, the Labyrinth has two distinct parts: to the right/east of the “Viale del Satiro” (Orsini plan), and to the left/west of the Viale (new plan). The cultivation extends to the west of the “Viale del Satiro”.

Plan of the Villa Ludovisi, Conrad Lauwers, 1650. From Carla Benocci, Villa Ludovisi (2010) 88.

G. B. Falda’s 1670 view, taken from south to north, shows the niche from its front, with a façade of four columns supporting a tall sarcophagus, but he does not show two tall cypresses and non-colossal unprotected statues. Even though the Labyrinth, the piazza in front of the building he labels as a Museum (Casino Capponi), the walks, and the area around the Casino dell’Aurora were demonstrably filled with urns, statues, and sarcophagi, Falda only shows a few giant pieces along the wall and a few around the foundation of the Casino dell’Aurora.

For the Pan’s location, the earliest written testimony outside of the inventories (1633, 1733) is by Francis Mortoft, a young English traveler who visited the Villa Ludovisi on the afternoon of Sunday 9 February 1659 during the lifetime of Niccolò Ludovisi, younger brother of Ludovico Ludovisi. In a diary (first published in 1925) he finds the Ludovisi Pan against the Aurelian Wall, where Falda’s map of 1670 has it. In Mortoft’s manuscript, among his extensive descriptions of the sculptures in the area of the Villa Ludovisi, he positions the Ludovisi Pan at the “lower end” of the garden—i.e., against the Wall—and also mentions as in its vicinity the colossal bust of Alexander the Great (called “Commodus”), and the Great Battle Sarcophagus. He calls the Pan “ridiculous”, yet does justice to the fact that it is well done, though he does not describe it as Michelangelo’s work—all important because it explains the Pan’s later reception. He writes that after a visit to art housed indoors,

“…we went about the Garden, where, at the lower end, we saw a very ridiculous statue of a satyr, which canot but stir up any man to much laughter in looking on such a Rediculous piece, but yet very excellently well made. A little below is the Head of Commodus, the Emperor, and not far from it is a description of a Battell of the Rom[ans], made all of one stone, where is to be seen at least 40 several pieces of men and horses, some fighting, some dying, and some killing others, and everyone representing these Actions that they were in, so much to the life that by all Report it is esteemed to be one of the most incomparable pieces that were ever made by any human hands.”

Another useful testimony about the first and the original location of the Pan is from Pietro di Sebastiani’s 1683 book, Viaggio curioso de’ palazzi, e ville più notabili di Roma. Sebastiani describes the location of the Pan against the wall without associating it with Michelangelo. “There are gardens, vegetable gardens, vineyards, woods, avenues, but what is more than amazing is a Labyrinth arranged in the form of a gallery in a forest, and adorned with ancient statues, and in good taste, which seems enchanting. The whole site is adorned with statues, low reliefs, colossi, terms, urns, & other ancient things, & the Satyr and low relief beside the walls are marvelous (il Satiro e basso rilievo accanto le mura riescono di merauiglia)”.

From Pietro Rossini’s 1693 Mercurio Errante, the first page of his detailed (pp. 91-95) description of the Villa Ludovisi. Credit: Google Books

In 1693, Pietro Rossini offers a thorough description of the garden areas of the Villa Ludovisi in his influential Mercurio Errante. It is worth quoting expansively, since here he goes far beyond his predecessors Mortoft and di Sebastiani in providing detail (extending even to measurements), while confirming their reports of the location of the Pan. Rossini measured the gardens’ total circuit as 1500 passi romani (= ca. 2130 meters); the future Viale dei Cipressi that led from the Villa Ludovisi main gate to the colossal “Faustina” (i.e., Juno) as 200 passi in length and 5 passi in width (= ca. 296 x 7.4 meters); and the Labyrinth as 85 passi long and 60 passi wide (= ca. 126 x 89 meters). In the Labyrinth, Rossini places a “curious Egyptian idol;…beautiful Consular figures; two Barbarian Kings, prisoners with their hands tied; the handsome Silenus, who sleeps on an ancient urn decorated with a battle in low relief; the group of the Satyr with the young Faun; the Statue of Leda” as well as sixteen busts of emperors and “the beautiful Statue of Nero in sacrificial dress”.

Rossini then differentiates the Labyrinth to what lies to its north. “You will come out of the Labyrinth, and entering the Vineyard (Vigna) you will see a large Obelisk on the ground, 30 passi long and 5 palmi wide [i.e., 44.4 meters long—a wild exaggeration—and a little more than a meter wide].” The author then turns to the Viale “that corresponds to the Palazzo [i.e., the ex-Orsini Palazzo Grande]”. He measures that as 170 passi long and 3 passi wide (= ca. 252 meters long and 4.5 meters wide). Rossini continues regarding this viale: “at the bottom of it, near the walls of the City, there is a statue of a Satyr by a good craftsperson. Above this one sees an ancient Sepulcher with two portraits. (…vi è la Statua d’un Satiro di buon Artefice. Sopra di questo si vede un Sepolcro antico con dui ritratti). Beyond this, you will continue along the walls toward the west, and you will see the head, whether a colossal one of Alexander Severus or someone else” followed by the Great Battle Sarcophagus, on which Rossini speculates at some length.

Rossini’s account not only confirms for 1693 the placement of the Pan at the top of an avenue that terminates at the Aurelian Wall. It also offers the first literary description of the Pan’s sarcophagus-topped niche, and also suggests that the “Viale del Satiro” was second only to the “Viale dei Cipressi” in dimensions and importance. Later editions of Rossini’s Mercurio Errante (starting with that of 1700) also add more (inaccurate) detail on the sarcophagus, asserting that its inscription identifies it as that of “the consular M. Aurelius and Theodora his wife”. (In reality, it is Aurelius Theodorus and his wife Varia Octavia.)

Joseph Vernet’s 1737 sketch of the “niche”, formed by a sarcophagus and lid mounted on columns, with the Pan (with fig leaf) placed inside, close by the Aurelian Walls that bounded the Villa Ludovisi to the north. Credit: D. Cordellier, P. Rosenberg, & P. Märker, Dessins français du musée de Darmstadt (2007) 459. See also detail below.

The most significant and earliest drawing showing the actual context of the Pan is by Joseph Vernet, dated 1737. It shows at the end of a broad avenue what is unmistakably the Ludovisi Pan, rendered in great detail. Even though Vernet seems trying to be very realistic in his depiction, he shows the Pan without its tree trunk which supports the sculpture. Unlike Vernet’s depiction, the other representations by 18th-century artists display the Pan with its tree trunk. The sculpture in Vernet’s drawing stands on the ground within a façade formed by four columns, two on each side. A surface behind the Pan is visible, with a rectangular niche not much taller than the human-sized statue. Above the columns is placed an unusually deep sarcophagus with a lid depicting a married couple in three dimensions, all against the city wall. There is also the subtle suggestion of a path running horizontally in front of the statue, along the wall. Before the columns on either side are set two low and square objects, which are standing slightly raised on four legs, and seem like small marble bases; presumably, lamps would have been placed on them. The one on the right looks hollow with a raised lid. This drawing also shows two immense cypresses, one on either side of the structure. It is important to note the depiction of this statue with a fig leaf hanging on its genitalia—the earliest rendering of this covering.

Italian antiquarian Francesco De Ficoroni’s testimony regarding the Pan demonstrates that the niche with sarcophagus was still extant in 1744, with the Pan under it. “At the end of this third large road, you can see the curious statue of a Satyr, with an urn [i.e., sarcophagus] on it, where a marriage, with its inscription from a late age, is carved in bas-relief and carved.” (“Nel fine di questo terzo stradone si vede la curiofa statua d’un Satiro, con Sopra un’ urna, dove a bassariluevo e scolpito un Matrimonio, con sua iscrizione del basso secolo.”) As documentary evidence, without mentioning its location, the 31 March 1749 inventory record of the sculptures in the Villa Ludovisi gives the Ludovisi Pan a high value of 4000 scudi. As we have seen in Part II of this study, of statues exhibited outside the Villa Ludovisi, only three earn a higher valuation, each of them colossal in scale.

Following De Ficorini, Ridolfino Venuti’s 1766 book Di Roma Moderna, as part of an extensive description of the sculptures of the Villa Ludovisi, also describes the Ludovisi Pan as positioned against the Aurelian Wall. This comes as part of a survey of “the most noteworthy” statues exhibited outside in or near the area called “the Labyrinth”. He lists nine works in rapid succession: “two captive Barbarian Kings; the beautiful Silenus, who rests on the wineskin; the group of a Satyr with a small Faun; another [group] of Leda, and of Nero; another satyr; and the great head of Alexander Severus. In the avenue on the right you can see the statue, quite curious, of Nero, dressed as a priest; and a beautiful statue of Mercury, with some women gazing at the sky. It is not known whether they are Sibyls or Muses.”

Venuti then reports that there is “on the third avenue”—apparently the Viale del Satiro—”the head of black marble, colossal with hair, and horribly unattractive, perhaps some Lemur or terror-causing god.” This piece is not readily identifiable. He then continues, “At the end [of the third avenue] is the statue of a Satyr with an urn [i.e., sarcophagus] above, where in bas relief there is carved a marriage [scene] with its inscription of late antiquity”. In the very next sentence, Venuti mentions the Great Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus: “further along the Aurelian Walls, there is another large urn, where there is carved a battle between Romans and Persians”.  (Nel terzo viale la testa di marmo nero colossale con capelli, a cesso orribile, forse qualche Dio Lemure, o Terifico; nel fine la statue d’un satiro con sua iscrizione del basso secolo. Interno alle mura d’Aureliano e’un’altra grande urna, ov’e scolpita una battaglia fra Romani, a Persiani, opera del tempo d’Alessandro Severo.)

Moreover, we must note a significantly changed later edition of Pietro Rossini’s Mercurio Errante, originally published in 1693 and discussed above. The 1776 edition literally copies Venuti’s 1766 description of the Ludovisi Pan at the niche against the wall and other statues at the Labyrinth, and so has no independent value.

Hubert Robert’s 1764 depiction of the “niche” at left, along with the colossal Juno at right, against the city wall. Credit: Artstor (with erroneous date ‘1789’)

Indeed, there is good reason to believe that even when Venuti published his guide in 1766, the display of the Pan had seen important changes. In a drawing dated 1764, Hubert Robert depicts a large structure on the site of the original “niche” being examined by two visitors. The façade consists of four noticeably tall columns, and there is now a concave back to the “niche”, and on top a different sarcophagus—much more shallow than the one we find in Vernet’s 1737 drawing, without a three-dimensional lid. Close by on the right side of the structure, the colossal “Juno” is depicted, even though in reality it was much further away along the pathway of the wall. Also, a tall cypress tree is shown on the right side of the “niche”. In the composition, people are shown climbing on the walls; indeed someone is drying clothes on a level above the “niche”. The artist depicts at least four enormous barrels placed somewhat haphazardly around the structure.

It is the whole “niche” structure that dominates Robert’s drawing. He also does not show any sculpture within, because he has chosen a vantage point that hides the statue inside the niche. It would seem that the artist deliberately removes the Pan from view; if so, we may view the incongruous barrels as attributes of the Pan, a substitute for depicting him. As for the unexpected “shallow” sarcophagus on top, as we shall see, the deeper sarcophagus with a three-dimensional lid was indeed at some point removed from the “niche”, to the area just east of Juno, as 1806 drawing from Louis-Pierre Lebas shows.

Separation of the Pan from the Aurelian Wall, and the building of a new aedicula

So far in our discussion, the testimony that the Ludovisi Pan was moved in the mid-eighteenth century from its original location against the city wall (seen in the Vernet sketch of 1737, and in the travel guides of De Ficoroni 1744 and Venuti 1766) to the Labyrinth is slight, essentially only the 1779 account of Magnan. Yet visual confirmation for the removal of the Pan is soon to come, as we shall see, in the first years of the nineteenth century. Drawings from the years 1800-1806 by French architects Louis-Pierre Baltard (1764-1846) and Louis-Hippolyte Lebas (1782-1867) show a different statue in its place at the top of the “Viale del Satiro”. Furthermore, an 1806 drawing by Lebas shows that the original “deep” sarcophagus with its three-dimensional lid that had topped the “niche” was removed and placed further to the east, apparently with its own protective wall.

Louis-Hippolyte Lebas, drawing of the sarcophagus of the “niche” after its move, 1806. Credit: L’École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts

What was the motivation for this transformation? As Professor Brennan has suggested to me, it was the crumbling of bricks of the Aurelian Wall precisely at the terminus of the Viale del Satiro. This prompted a reevaluation of the niche and caused the Pan to be moved away from the Wall into the Labyrinth, and the deep sarcophagus and its lid to be removed from the niche, and placed further east, where it was in fact protected and highlighted to better effect. Records from the Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi show that the wall near the Viale del Satiro had suffered a major collapse on 8 April 1786. Prince Antonio (II) Boncompagni Ludovisi and the Conservators of the city of Rome split the cost for the repairs, which came to 350 scudi, each employing their own architects, Melchiorre Passalacqua for the family and Carlo Puri de Marchis (1715-1790) for the city. Patching to the bricks can still be seen in the relevant portion of the Wall today. The Pan may have been moved away from the wall even prior to 1786, if the instability of the Wall was evident.

The second location of the Pan, one assumes in the Labyrinth, was to last just a few decades at most. In the principate of Antonio (II) Boncompagni Ludovisi (1777-1805), and probably before 1800, the original “niche” was reworked into a neoclassical aedicula, with pediment and pitched roof. This aedicula was constructed precisely on the spot of the “niche”, to maintain the strong visual focus on the terminus of the “Viale del Satiro”—but also, we can assume, to offer better protection from falling bricks. In time, this would be the Pan’s third location, where it would remain until the dissolution of the Villa Ludovisi. The likely architect of this structure was Melchiorre Passalacqua, from a famed family of architects, who built the main gate of the Villa Ludovisi in 1809.

Louis-Pierre Baltard (1800-1802), drawing of the new aedicula with a female sculpture against the city wall. Credit: Bibliothèque municipale de Bordeaux

The new aedicula itself in fact shows three stages of development. The first artistic depiction of this new aedicula, dated between 1800-1802 and confirming its placement, is by French architect Louis-Pierre Baltard. The interior of the structure is shown with a romanesque arch in the back, with no ornamentation. Surprisingly, a life-size female figure is shown within. Here Baltard seems to create a deep perspective with the depiction of the female sculpture and its pedestal. Indeed, they look like a mural painting, as a part of the back wall, when compared to the column’s three-dimensionality.

The second depiction of the new aedicula is by the French architect Louis-Hippolyte Lebas, and consists of both an elevation and ground plan. His drawings are probably to be dated to 1806, the year he was at the French Academy in Rome—in the Villa Medici, next door to the Villa Ludovisi. He also sketched the Casino dell’Aurora, in its pre-expansion (1855-1858) state. In Lebas’ elevation, the aedicula is shown with a rectangle back, with fake foliage clustered about. What seems to be a Medusa head has been added to the pediment. Within an unidentified figure is vaguely rendered, more consistent with the female sculpture that Baltard showed us that with our Pan. In truth, Lebas seems not so much interested in the sculpture, which seems deliberately anonymized, as its structure. On the same sheet as this drawing, he depicts the ground plan of the aedicula, with six columns arranged in a 4 x 2 pattern. When comparing Lebas’s depiction of the aedicula with that of Baltard, the placement of the pedestal and the three-dimensionality of the columns are not the same.

Louis-Hippolyte Lebas, ground plan of the aedicula, and elevation of the aedicula with unidentified statue, 1806. Credit: L’École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts

Indeed, Lebas’s 1806 drawing may capture the moment when the Boncompagni Ludovisi architect is preparing the niche for the Pan—hence the fake vegetation—but has not yet removed the female statue. It remains an open question where the Pan was ca. 1800-1806 when the aedicula was first built. In all likelihood, it was in the Labyrinth. But perhaps it was moved inside the Boncompagni Ludovisi Museum (= Casino Capponi) by Antonio II, and then for reasons of subject matter, moved back out after his death in 1805 by his son Luigi Boncompagni Ludovisi, Prince of Piombino from 1805 to 1841. Wherever the statue was placed, surely it was still kept in a place of honor.

A third phase of the aedicula, with the Pan, finally restored within, can be seen in the 1885 photos of the Villa Ludovisi. The ‘Medusa’ relief sculpture is still intact, as is the fake foliage. But now a wrought-iron fence surrounds the columns, and the pitched roof has gained a chimney. The chimney may belong to the mid-19th century, added at the same time as gas lights are installed on walkways of Villa Ludovisi.

The Pan in its aedicula as it stood in 1885, with chimney installed on roof. Collection †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome

Why a chimney? Here Giuseppe Felici in his Villa Ludovisi (p. 256 n. 35) offers an answer. He cites a May 1893 document that envisions the sale of the collection of statues.  Two statues are explicitly left out of the sale: Bernini’s Proserpina, said to be “found at the base of the principal staircase” in the new Palazzo Piombino on Via Veneto; and “the statue of the Satyr that is in the tempietto where is the so-called tiro del calorifero”. The “calorifero” means radiator or heater, and so the phrase (not easily paralleled in Italian) apparently means chimney. Perhaps there was an actual heater in the temple to warm up people on winter walks.

One further point. An 1833 description by marble specialist Faustino Corsi says all the columns—four in front, two behind—were made of “Hymettian marble”, i.e., marble from Mount Hymettus near Athens. And so he thought all six columns to be ancient. In any case, it seems that when the Boncompagni Ludovisi dismantled the “niche” with the sarcophagus, they reused the configuration of 4 columns that fronted the original structure, and surely other elements as well. Schreiber (1880) claims that four columns were ancient; two were modern.

The gradual acceptance of attribution to Michelangelo

As we have seen, the earliest identification of the Ludovisi Pan as a work of Michelangelo dates back to the 1760s. In his Voyage d’un francais en Italie, fait dans les annees 1765 et 1766 (published 1769), Joseph Jerome Le Francois de LaLande conveys his observations from 1765-1766 on the artworks of the Villa Ludovisi. He describes the location of the Pan with the structure (the niche with the columns) and mentions the common attribution of the statue to Michelangelo. In his writing, LaLande indirectly criticizes the sculpture without stating any negative description. Instead, he implied that it was inappropriate to attribute the artwork to Michelangelo. He also adds a brief description of a “semi-colossal” Juno. “One of the alleys has a view, a tomb between four large cypresses, carried in part on four Doric columns without a base…the effect would not be happy without the matting of the walls of the city which pass behind…there is a standing Satyr below, which is said to be by Michelangelo, but which does not correspond to the reputation of this author. At the end of another aisle is a figure of a semi-colossal woman, whose draperies are well rendered, but whose head and arms not well.” 

Johann Jacob Volkmann (1732-1803) follows LaLande’s account point by point in volume II of his 1770 book, Historische-kritischen Nachrichten von Italien, with a critical tone and without explicitly endorsing or rejecting it. Volkmann praised the Villa Ludovisi garden as “one of the most beautiful in Rome” and described its “labyrinth, fountains, and numerous ancient statues”. He also mentioned the sarcophagus, the niche with columns, and the Pan located between “four cypress trees”. Volkmann considered the statue to be “mediocre”, however, his implicit reference to previous scholarly reactions suggests that prior to his visit (before 1770), there may have been scholarly opinions that the statue was the work of Michelangelo. “At the end of the avenue stands an old tomb, between four great cypress trees and four Doric columns; beyond it lies the half-derelict city. Under the tombstone is a mediocre Satyr, which is taken to be the work of Michael Angelo.”  

However, the first unqualified attribution of the Pan to Michelangelo is the Lacombe dictionary, Dictionnaire historique et géographique portatif de l’Italie…A-M, Volume 1, published in 1775, which has the following anonymous entry. “The gardens, works of [André] Le Nôtre [1613-1700], are charming: they contain beautiful statues, an ancient colossal Faustina [i.e., the Juno]; a natural-size Satyr, by Michelangelo; an ancient Silenus, sleeping with his head leaning on a wineskin; an ancient tomb between four tall cypress trees, offering a vantage point to one of the avenues.” This description is too brief to indicate whether the Pan was still in its original location against the city wall, though the mention directly following the Juno implies it.

Next, in his 1779 book Descrizione Della Citta di Roma II, the French abbot Dominique Magnan (1731-1796) also considers the Pan as by Michelangelo’s hand and interestingly describes this statue at its second location—the Labyrinth proper. It is a summary list, overlapping in good measure with that of Venuti (1766), and his description mentions nothing about a structure for the Pan. “There you can see a labyrinth, a beautiful variety of avenues, most of them made up of cypresses, laurels and holm oaks, basins, jets of water, urns, busts, ancient bas-reliefs, and a large number of statues, among which we observe the figure of a half-colossal woman, whose draperies are plain; a reclining Silenus; two captive Kings; a group of a satyr and a faun; Nero in a priestly dress; Mercury in the company of women who look at Heaven; and a standing satyr of natural size, made by Michel’Angiolo Buonarroti” (un Satiro in piedi di naturale grandezza, fatto da Michel’Angiolo Buonaroti.) 

However, the impact of these early attributions to Michelangelo initially seems quite limited. In 1780, as I discussed in Part II, the famed neoclassical sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822) sketched the Ludovisi Pan on the same sheet with an ancient group of sculptures, Pan and Daphnis (now in Palazzo Altemps). In a travel diary for the years 1779-1780 (published in 1957) Canova, at the time aged 22, tells how he visited the Ludovisi Pan on Wednesday 26 April 1780, and he drew this statue the following week, on Saturday 6 May. But he knows nothing of its identification as a work of Michelangelo.

Antonio Canova, Statue of Pan and Group of Pan and Daphnis, 1780. Bassano, Museo Civico (Neg. E. b. 15 1026). From Palma, MNR I 4 (1983) 162.

In his diary of the first visit to the Villa Ludovisi, Canova mentions the statues and sarcophagi in the garden and inside four consecutive rooms of the Casino dell’Aurora. For the exterior art, after mentioning other statues and sarcophagi, he notes another sarcophagus and then a satyr—our Ludovisi Pan—and he highlights its high quality and doubts about whether it is ancient. (Vi sono altri sarcofagi, e poi un satiro di buona scultura ma non lo credo antico). For this initial visit, he says that he did not start to draw the statues because a servant always accompanied him on this day. On Thursday 27 April, he started drawing interior statues, such as the “Gladiator” (= Dying Gaul) and Mars. After visiting several other places in Rome, at the end of the following week, he returned to the Villa Ludovisi. On 6 May, in the morning, Canova draws first the Ludovisi Pan, and then another sketch, that of the Pan and Daphnis group. (Roma 6 Maggio 1780: Questa mattina andiedi dopo la cademia nella villa Ludovisi e mi misi a disegnare il Sattiro, poi fecci unaltro schizzo del gruppo del satiro che insagna a sonare la zampogna ad un fauno …)

Canova does not note the Pan’s location other than the fact it is outside. Nor does he have anything to say about a protective structure. Yet Canova’s testimony is of extreme importance for our study, for it shows that he admired its workmanship, was unaware of the statue’s recent attribution (Lacombe 1775, Magnan 1779) to Michelangelo, and indeed felt compelled to note that he did not think the Pan to be ancient. Canova in his actual drawing also depicts a hole in Pan’s genitalia that marks the place where a fig leaf would be mounted, confirming Joseph Vernet’s 1737 depiction showing that enormous fig leaf. The 1885 historical photos show the statue still with this fig leaf.

The Swiss painter and writer Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) independently shared Canova’s suspicions on the Pan, but developed those thoughts more fully: he argued that the work was a Renaissance classicizing statue that predated Michelangelo. Fuseli says the statue was not ancient, but so close to Michelangelo’s style that Michelangelo modeled his Moses on it. He thought that Michelangelo studied the statue for an arm and the head of Moses. However, he does not say that it was by Michelangelo.

“In his Lectures”, wrote James Dennistoun in 1851, “Fuseli has exposed several of [the Moses’] defects, and the impression it most frequently leaves upon the spectator is thus aptly expressed by him in an Italian letter to the translator of [Daniel] Webb On the Beautiful”.  The reference is to Irish writer Daniel Webb’s An Inquiry into the Beauties of Painting (London 1760), which in 1791 was published in Venice in an Italian translation by Maria Quarini Stampalia (†1849).

Then follows a quotation from Fuseli writing to Quarini Stampalia, probably no earlier than ca. 1790: “In the Moses, Michael Angelo has sacrificed beauty to anatomical science, and to his favorite passion for the terrible and the gigantic. If it is true that he looked at the arm of the famous Ludovisi satyr, he probably, also, studied the head, in order to transfer its character to Moses, since both of them resemble that of an old he-goat. There is, notwithstanding, in the figure [of Moses] a quality of monstrous grandeur which cannot be denied to Buonarroti, and which, like a thunderstorm, presaged the bright days of Raffaele.” Fuseli’s views gained wide circulation, and for instance, were quoted by Stendhal in 1817.

The aedicula of the Pan as it stood in 1885; the arrow indicates the new location of the sarcophagus and lid that topped the original “niche”, set up by 1633 and dismantled before 1800. Collection †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome

A turning point in the reception of the Pan as a work of Michelangelo seems due to the pioneering Italian archaeologist Carlo Fea (1753-1836), who praises the Ludovisi Pan and for the first time in more than 40 years pronounces it in print as the work of the master. In his 1822 book, Descrizione di Roma e de’ Contorni, vol. II, Fea conveys his observation about the sculpture by walking in the Villa Ludovisi along the Aurelian Wall from west to east. “The gardens are filled with many statues and sculptures, including a colossal head of Alexander, a large sarcophagus representing a battle between the Romans and the Dacians; a statue of Jupiter Ammon: a life-size standing Satyr by Michelangelo, so beautiful that it is comparable to any ancient work (un Satiro in piedi di grandezza naturale di Michelangelo; cosi bello che è paragonabile a qualsivoglia opera antica). [Then] a cinerary urn with bas-relief of a battle between Greeks and Romans; and above it an ancient Silenus asleep; with his head resting on a wineskin.” Fea’s description implies that the Pan is now back against the Wall and in the aedicula.

Soon afterward, Stefano Piale also identifies the Ludovisi Pan as Michelangelo’s work and describes it in the niche against the city walls. In his Le Ville de Rome (1826) he devotes a section to the Villa Ludovisi and the sculptures in the garden. But his account simply translates verbatim that of Magnan 1779  and has no independent value

More authoritative is Italian archaeologist and topographer Antonio Nibby, who describes the statue of Pan as made by Michelangelo in his posthumously published 1841 book Roma nell’anno MDCCCXXXVII (vol. II, p. 398 ff.) He relates that in the Villa’s “grove” (bosco) one sees “the colossal sarcophagus, the colossal statue of Pluto, the colossal head of Alexander the Great, a semi-colossal figure reclining, a Silenus immersed in sleep, two captive barbarian kings, the Satyr by Michelangelo Buonarroti.” Nibby highlights the Pan’s position that the Pan was near “two enormous plane trees”.

In 1842, the monumental work of English architect Joseph Gwilt (1784-1863), An Encyclopaedia of Architecture, Historical, Theoretical, and Practical, shows the Pan as Michelangelo’s work, providing a sketch. It is a quite small image, and amazingly the first published representation of the work; everything else we have seen so far has been private sketches and drawings and a photograph in an album produced for the Boncompagni Ludovisi family. Gwilt’s book proved hugely popular and saw many further editions (1859, 1876, 1891, 1899), each time with this sketch of the Ludovisi Pan. As it happens, no other author published an image of the sculpture until Beatrice Palma in her 1985 catalogue of the Ludovisi pieces in the Museo Nazionale Romano. Interestingly, in Gwilt’s volume, the depiction of the face of the sculpture is evocative of Michelangelo’s later appearance portrayed by Daniela da Volterra.

The first published image of the Pan (second from left), in Joseph Gwilt, An Encyclopaedia of Architecture, Historical, Theoretical, and Practical (1842) 739.

After Nibby and Gwilt, identifications of the Pan as by Michelangelo become routine. For example, Giuseppe Robello in his 1854 book, Les curiosités de Rome et de ses environs, devotes a section on Villa Ludovisi. “Walking through the alleys of the villa, you can still see many statues, busts, bas-reliefs, and antique urns. You will notice, among other things, a satyr which can compete with the best Greek works; it is by Michelangelo.” Moreover, in his 1855 Italie: guide du jeune voyageur, L’Abbe Moyne describes the statues in the garden of Villa Ludovisi and considers the Pan by Michelangelo as one of its priceless pieces. “It takes nothing less than the Villa Ludovisi to make you forget the Capuchins [i.e., their notoriously grisly crypt, now on Via Veneto]. Located on the slope of Mount Pincius, it occupies part of the gardens of Sallust; Le Nôtre, its designer, inspired by this memory, seems to have wanted to surpass himself in his decoration. Although the Ludovisi villa has not retained all of its reputation and rival villas are now vying for public recognition, it deserves, more than many others, to be visited. Its three palaces contain treasures of sculpture and painting. The antique groups of Orestes and Electra; a draped statue, the Repose of Mars; the death of Paetus and Arria; the Satyr by Michelangelo; and the Proserpina by Bernini are priceless pieces.”

Edmond Lafond in his 1856 book, Rome, lettres d’un pèlerin, vol. II, similarly considers the Pan to be Michelangelo’s work. “Let’s go back to Villa Ludovisi”, he writes. “Its gardens, carved into the old gardens of Sallust, extend to the crenelated walls of the City which form a magnificent enclosure. There, at the end of an aisle, is a colossal Satyr by Michelangelo (On y trouve, au fond d’une allée, un Satyre colossal de Michel-Ange.)” This is the first author to describe the statue as “colossal”; perhaps he did not walk the full length of the path he reports and so saw the sculpture at a distance. The French poet and writer Louise Colet in her book L’Italie des Italiens: Rome, published in 1864, also mentions the Pan as a highlight in her detailed description of the Villa Ludovisi. Among the sculptures found in the gardens, there is “a superb statue attributed to Michelangelo’s radiant throne”.

Former site (as seen in April 2021) of the Pan aedicula, against the wall near the intersection of the present day Via Campania and Via Toscana. The ground level is several meters lower today, thanks to the post-1885 construction work that formed the Rione Ludovisi. Credit: Google Streetview

Yet against Fea, Nibby, Gwilt and these others, the Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt took a different position. In his 1855 book Der Cicerone: Eine Anleitung Zum Genuss der der Kunstwerke Italiens, in a quick survey of satyr sculptures in Rome, he states that the Ludovisi Pan was not executed by Michelangelo but by a later 16th-century imitator. Burckhardt does not tell us how he arrived at that conclusion. But his point indicates that contemporary visitors now generally believed the Pan to be by the master. “Often [one finds] a small Pan in a cloak with the multi-piped shepherd’s flute in his hand, with a funny expression of waiting and watching”, writes Burckhardt. He cites examples in the courtyard of the Capitoline Museums, and “also in the garden of the Villa Albani; the one in the garden of the Villa Ludovisi is a work of the 16th century, but not by Michelangelo, but by an affected imitator of the same (derjenige im Garten der Villa Ludovisi ist ein Werk des 16. Jahrhunderts, aber nicht von Michelangelo, sondern von einem affektierten Nachahmer desselben).”

If French journalist and critic Armand de Pontmartin (1811-1890) knew of Burckhardt’s views on the Pan, he ignored them. In his 1865 book Nouveaux samedis vol. II, de Pontmartin offers an imaginative dialogue between the Pan and an author who visits the Villa Ludovisi, fascinated by the statue’s vivid details. (For the sculpture’s features as they once appeared, see my Part II.) In this story, the narrator explicitly believes that this statue was made by Michelangelo.

Pontmartin writes, “The author goes a step further, and finds himself in the presence of a satyr. The gigantic shadow of Michelangelo hovers over this ensemble like an eagle over its threshing floor.” Then, significantly, de Pontmartin points out how the vivid and life-like depiction of the god Pan impressed the visitor and prompted an intense dialogue between them. “Then it seems that the marble satyr comes to life and that his flesh quivers before his eyes, in this imagination endowed with such life that it vivifies death and idealizes matter.” Furthermore, we are told that “between the walker and the statue a dialogue is established which sums up the immortal antagonism, the implacable duel of good and evil, of the soul and the senses, of the spirit of clarity and the spirit of darkness, Christianity and paganism”. 

It is quite important to state that de Pontmartin’s testimony confirms not only the strong belief in the mid-19th century that the sculptor of the Pan was Michelangelo but also the unfortunate loss of details of this statue—details which we have seen fascinated 18th-century artists. Similarly, Michelangelo’s sculptural language—especially his depiction of the anatomical details—gives the same sense to viewers, largely lost in replicas such as that of his David.

Writing in 1870, the French critic Jean-Baptiste Joseph Émile Montégut (1825-1895) considered the Pan to be Michelangelo’s, yet categorized it as a “secondary work” among those of the master in Rome. “I pass over a few works of secondary importance”, says Montégut, “of no interest to anyone who has not seen Rome: a head of Christ at Santa Agnese at Porta Pia; a painting representing Christ on the cross in the Doria Palace; two figures of apostles, fresco painting studies, made by Michelangelo in his youth, in the Borghese Palace; his own portrait, at the Capitoline Gallery. Among these works, most of which are moreover contested, there are some that we will have occasion to find on the way, the Satyr of the Villa Ludovisi for example; but we cannot however omit the frescoes executed for the Pauline Chapel, in the Vatican”. Finally, one notes that in the Fratelli Treves guide Rome and the Environs (1889 with later editions), there is a very interesting and indeed wild interpretation of the Pan’s animal pelt hanging over his right shoulder—one of the characteristic features of the god Pan. “In the Garden are several ancient statues and sarcophagi”, we are told. Just two are singled out: “On one of these latter (near the wall) a battle is represented. The satyr bearing his son’s skin, is attributed to Michelangelo.” The origins of this macabre notion are unclear.

Like Burckhardt, Theodor Schreiber in his 1880 catalogue of ancient sculptures in the Villa Ludovisi was unwilling to accept this Pan’s attribution to the master, although he interpreted the sculpture he found in the aedicula against the wall as “Michelangelesque” (“Michelangelesken Pan” or “Michelangelesken Satyr”) and so admits the stylistic resemblances between Michelangelo’s works of art and the Pan. Schreiber gives no reason for his conclusion. Though he discusses with great authority what lid originally went on the sarcophagus in the original “niche”, he says nothing about the Medusa head set into the pediment of the aedicula (confirmed by the 1885 photos). That may suggest Schreiber thought the relief was modern.

The alleged substitution of the Ludovisi Satiro Versante for the Ludovisi Pan

In my Part II, I have already discussed a consequential mistake on the part of Boncompagni Ludovisi family archivist Giuseppe Felici in his understanding of the placement of the Pan. In his 1952 Villa Ludovisi in Roma, Felici argued that it was the ‘Satiro versante’ (= Pouring Satyr, MNR inv. 8597) that gave the name to the “Viale del Satiro”, and only at a late stage was switched with the Ludovisi Pan. Beatrice Palma (1985) followed Felici in this, and introduced a further error by ignoring the sarcophagus on four columns, thinking that the aedicula was always there (see especially Palma I 4 p. 211; also p. 84 on 1641, p. 125 on 1720-1730, and p. 132 on 1733). Moreover, even though 1633 and 1733 inventory records marked the Ludovisi Pan at the niche against the wall, Felici believed that it was the “Pouring Satyr” in the niche until the early 19th century.

Stereoscopic image (ca. 1859) by the Naples firm of Grillet of the “Satiro Versante”(Schreiber no. 71) as it was exhibited in Sala II of the Museo Boncompagni Ludovisi in the Villa Ludovisi. Collection †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

Felici’s mistake does not need extensive refutation: the Vernet drawing from 1737 (which he did not know) shows the Ludovisi Pan in the niche, and the Baltard and Lebas drawings make it clear that there is a female sculpture in a newly-built aedicula between 1800 and 1806. No image shows the Satiro Versante in a garden setting. Considering all the findings presented here from the inventories of the Villa Ludovisi, from artists’ and architects’ renderings, and various guidebooks, we can soundly reject Felici’s claim that the Satiro Versante was originally placed against the wall in the niche. Palma herself (I 4 p. 53) informs us in 1665 the Satiro Versante was recorded indoors, in the Casino dell’Aurora, in the “Room of the Clock” (Stanza dell’ Orologio).

In truth, the fact that Felici found the Ludovisi Pan as of “a repugnant and obscene appearance” (… d’aspetto ripugnante ed osceno…) seems to have affected his usually solid academic judgment. Yet Felici’s criticisms of the appearance of the Ludovisi Pan misled not only himself but also subsequent experts about the placement of the statue, and the source of the name of the “Viale”. Moreover, Felici’s strong reaction to the Ludovisi Pan also negatively impacted his overall interpretation and the later reception of Ludovisi Pan.

Felici does usefully provide for us the exact terminal date of the move of the Ludovisi Pan to its present location, its fourth, outside the southwest wing of Casino dell’Aurora: 20 February 1901. Felici notes that “today [i.e., in 1952] ‘il satiro Michelangelosco’ is exhibited in the garden around the Casino dell’Aurora, where this statue was transported just ahead of 20 February 1901.” Interestingly, Felici himself admits the stylistic similarities with Michelangelo. Nevertheless, at some point in the latter half of the 20th century, a tree was grown by the Boncompagni Ludovisi in front of the statue, evidently because of the embarrassment to the owners. Fortunately, in 2008 or 2009 this tree was removed by Prince Nicolò and Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, and in 2011 the statue was cleaned.

Left: detail of the Ludovisi Pan, October 2022. Photo: T. Corey Brennan. Right: Ludovisi Pan in 1986. Photo: Maria Elisa Micheli, in Palma MNR I 6 (1986).

Other than Felici’s 1952 polemic against the Pan, a two-page 1986 contribution (to Palma, Museo Nazionale Romano: Le Sculture I 6) remains the only scholarly discussion of the statue since the dissolution of the Villa Ludovisi in 1885. In the Palma volume, Maria Elisa Micheli merely describes the statue as a modern work and touches very simply on the attribution to Michelangelo. Micheli’s photos of the statue however are of extreme value. The resemblance between the depiction of the pointed ears of the Pan captured in Micheli’s photos and the pointed ears of Michelangelo’s satyr compared to his Bacchus is remarkable. However, when comparing Micheli’s 1986 photos with my 2022 photos of the Ludovisi Pan in the garden of the Casino dell’Aurora, unfortunately, one can detect marked deterioration in the face of the statue over the past four decades. It can be seen that the right side of the forked beard has been divided into two, and a huge gap is now formed in the middle, noticably losing its old form.

The tree trunks of the Ludovisi Pan and Michelangelo’s David

As my last point, we now turn our focus to the tree trunk depicted to support the statue. When comparing the David’s tree trunk with the Pan, the placement of the right leg in front of the tree trunk looks very different. We can see that the David’s right leg is perfectly settled at the front of a tree trunk. In contrast, the Pan’s tree trunk stands like a column to support the statue. Presumably, Pan’s goat-like legs caused its different placement. Two other reasons for depicting the large tree trunk with the Pan: firstly, to emphasize the rustic nature of the Pan, and secondly, to show inspiration from antique models, especially considering the depiction of ancient statues with large tree trunks.

Left: detail of tree trunk of Michelangelo’s David. Right: detail of tree trunk of the Ludovisi Pan. Photos by the author.

It is also important to bear in mind that ancient satyr sculptures were usually depicted in a sitting position. In marble statues, it is surely very hard to maintain the balance of the whole body with goat-like legs, because the lower part of the legs is very thin when compared to the upper part. As an example, the Della Valle Satyrs have a large rectangular supporting platform to support the whole statue from the back, from bottom to top.

Of course, overall size also makes a big difference. When comparing the David’s colossal body with the tree trunk, the latter seems quite small, and realistically shaped—indeed almost real. The Pan’s tree trunk seems very rough, in fact unfinished, when compared to its detailed body. However, on closer examination, the forked branch at the top of the trunk of the David, with all pruned branches, is similar in idea to that of the Pan, though there the forked branch seems unfinished.  Significantly, we know from the drawings that so many details of this Pan have largely disappeared. Still, the chisel marks on the tree trunk are visible, and invite technical study.


The visual and documentary evidence presented in the three parts of my article defends the traditional attribution of the Ludovisi Pan to Michelangelo. As visual evidence, we have demonstrated that two of the master’s drawings—the Dream and the Frankfurt sheet—show strong stylistic similarities with the Pan, especially in the facial depictions. These two drawings should be accepted as visual evidence supporting attribution to the master.

Regarding the acceptance and attribution of Ludovisi Pan to Michelangelo, my research has furthermore revealed important reactions from many French, Italian, and German artists and writers of guidebooks, from the 17th century to the late 19th century. No authority seems to have identified this Pan by Michelangelo until 1775. Despite positive reactions to the Pan and general acceptance of Michelangelo as its sculptor in the 19th century, Burckhardt followed by Schreiber were resistant, without offering a rationale. It is fair to state that their interpretations negatively affected the work’s later acceptance. More generally, the lack of a satisfactory published public image of the statue and the failure to produce a cast of this Pan to be created and exported formed essential problems for its acceptance.

Here in Part III, the main reason I have focused in such detail on Pan’s journey (its placement and treatment) is to demonstrate how this statue’s display directly affected its reception. The inventory records of the Villa Ludovisi which I presented in Part II, and the maps and numerous guidebooks from the 16th and 17th centuries discussed in Part III, show that the Ludovisi Pan was displayed in four different locations and conditions. The original location of this statue was against the city wall. Even though many guidebooks describe this statue at its first location, until 1775 they did not identify this statue as Michelangelo’s work. Although Volkmann in 1770 characterized the Ludovisi Pan as “mediocre” and like LaLande (1769) appeared to be reluctant to accept its attribution to Michelangelo, he suggests that there were prior opinions identifying the statue as a work by Michelangelo. Unfortunately, when they do—first in a dictionary—as yet we cannot provide the name of the author who first identified the Pan as Michelangelo’s work.

Then Magnan (1779) accepts this statue as Michelangelo’s work and describes this statue at its second location, at the Labyrinth. For a few decades at the end of the 18th century it indeed seems to have been relocated, but only to protect it from a crumbling wall and to allow a more protective covering to be built. By the early nineteenth century, we see the Pan restored to its original place against the wall.

As seen in all the inventory records, visual evidence, and guidebooks, we can say that it was placed in a very dignified position and formed one of the main focal points of the entire garden. Felici’s attempt to posit the Satiro Versante at the aedicula while ignoring Pan, offering (uncharacteristically) misleading information, shows the importance of this location for placement of a statue. Practically alone of the sculptures in the gardens it received a fence in the 19th century, and alone of all the statues it had its own heater. This statue has been located in the garden of the Casino dell’Aurora since 1901. Yet the fact that the statue was then deliberately hidden behind a tree highlights the nature of its reception in the late 20th century and the very beginning of the 21st century.

Furthermore, this study exposed how this statue has lost so much detail standing outside for at least four hundred years, in the last ca. 125 of which it has been unprotected. Representations of the Ludovisi Pan by 18th-century artists—particularly the very detailed 1723 depiction by artist Hamlet Winstanley that we closely discussed in Part II—as well as historical photos from 1885 have revealed these disappeared anatomical details. When comparing the Pan’s present state to its former condition, it is clear that this particular statue has suffered an unfortunate loss of detail, especially in the face and beard and the anatomical features such as the depiction of veins in his left arm.

Another major factor affecting the reception of this Pan statute is its problematic subject as a Greek god with an erect phallus. That not only negatively affected its exhibition and its reputation, but also delayed its attribution to Michelangelo, as guidebooks shows. For this reason, this statue early on (certainly by 1737) gained a fig leaf, a feature still visible in the 1885 photos.

This tragic scenario is evocative of the story of the cast of Michelangelo’s David in London. In 1857, the Grand Duke of Tuscany commissioned a cast of the David to present to Queen Victoria. The Queen gave this statue to the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) because of embarrassment. Whenever the Queen visited the sculpture, they covered his genitalia with this leaf. This fig leaf is now exhibited separately in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

It is important to note that eighteenth-century depictions of this Pan by Winstanley, Canova, Batoni, and Ciferri show the statue without a fig leaf. We can assume that these artists were able to move this leaf for drawing; the depiction of the hole on the genitalia in Canova’s 1780 drawing provides evidence for this claim. Indeed, its subject matter caused artists and scholars to fail to attribute this statue to Michelangelo consistently until the mid-nineteenth century, which in turn affected its later reception. 

Moreover, this statue, which eventually was hidden behind a tree in the late twentieth century due to its problematic subject, was abandoned to its fate, unprotected—despite the efforts of Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi in 2010 to move it inside the Casino dell’Aurora, for which permission was denied by the relevant authorities. Its display in the garden has caused many details to be lost and influenced the few modern scholars who have seen the sculpture to undervalue it.  

Even though this study, which examines the Ludovisi Pan in terms of representation, style, position and display, has brought to light much forgotten or ignored scholarly recognition showing this statue as Michelangelo’s work, it is not yet complete. We need to explore further to uncover unresolved issues, most urgently, the ultimate origin of this statue. A new investigation for Part IV will turn our focus to the Orsini archive and its sculpture collection, to investigate the possibility that the Pan came to Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi as a result of his purchase of the Orsini vigna with its Palazzo Grande and large obelisk in 1622.

A second aim will be to identify the female sculpture temporarily placed in the Pan’s aedicula in the late 18th century (as Baltard shows us), and also find the location of the Pan during that time. Ultimately, of course, a scientific analysis of the Pan’s marble and a technical study of the sculpture’s carving techniques are highly desirable, and will surely give us more information.

I conclude Part III of our deep investigation of the Ludovisi Pan with an important question to consider about this statue. How does a sculpture attributed to Michelangelo for 100 years deserve this unacceptable treatment today? Fortunately we still can stylistically compare this sculpture with works of art by Michelangelo, and reveal a great deal of correspondence. That means we still have details to preserve. The time is now to act and make a change, to conserve this once highly-regarded sculpture.

Hatice Köroğlu Çam is a 2022 graduate of Rutgers University, with a degree in Art History, and has been researching the statue of Pan under the direction of Professor T. Corey Brennan since January 2022. Hatice plans to pursue her academic journey towards a Ph.D., including further research into this Pan project. She expresses her sincerest gratitude to Professor Brennan for introducing her to this statue and encouraging her throughout the process of this research, for providing to her numerous guidebooks, his translation of all Italian documents, and his significant contributions, interpretations, guidance, and support. She extends a special thanks to HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi for her wonderful encouragement and inspiration for this project.

HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, CBS Sunday Morning host Mo Rocca, and a pixelated (by CBS) ‘Pan’ for a televised segment on the Casino dell’Aurora that aired 16 April 2017.

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