A new self-portrait of Michelangelo? The statue of Pan at the Casino dell’Aurora in Rome. Part IV: Physical condition & conservation mandates

By Hatice Köroglu Çam (Rutgers ’22)

Uncovering the Ludovisi Pan on 15 February 2011 at the Casino dell’Aurora following its most recent conservation and cleaning, at the initiative of †HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi. Photo: T. Corey Brennan


Since the early 17th century, the garden of the Villa Ludovisi in Rome has been home to a 16th-century statue, originally one of the pieces of the sculpture collection of Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi (1595-1621-1632). The statue, known as the Ludovisi Pan, depicts the mythological god with a half-human and half-goat appearance exhibiting horns, pointed ears, goat-like legs, an erect phallus, and an animal pelt draped over his right shoulder covering half of the back. This heavily muscled, life-sized marble statue of Pan, which stands against a support in the form of a large tree trunk, was in the later 18th and earlier 19th centuries commonly attributed to Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564). 

This is no longer the case. The Italian state’s official inventory of the artwork of the Casino dell’Aurora (19 June 2019), executed by Professor Alessandro Zuccari, dates the sculpture to “the end of the XVI century”. It terms the Pan “of excellent workmanship and in good state of conservation”, and lists the value of the statue as 250,000 euros. Significantly, it states that the attribution to Michelangelo was made “erroneously…in the 16th and 17th centuries”. 

My research, in the form of a series of posts on this blog, questions this interpretation of the Pan. I have argued that distinctive details of the Pan are consistent with Michelangelo’s stylistic language, and presented documentary evidence—including inventory records, notices from guidebooks, and unpublished sketches and historical photographs—that both strengthen the attribution to Michelangelo, and clarify possible reasons behind the persistent underestimation of this statue. I also emphasize how the finer details of the statue are on the verge of disappearing.

The ‘Pan’ attributed to Michelangelo at the Casino dell’Aurora, Rome, October 2022. Photo: T. Corey Brennan

In my first post, “A new self-portrait of Michelangelo? The statue of Pan at the Casino dell’Aurora in Rome. Part I: Correspondences”, I presented a deep analysis of Michelangelo’s works of art in all mediums to compare the stylistic similarities exhibited by the Ludovisi Pan. This investigation gave us a good number of correspondences. The most pronounced of these is the striking similarity between the facial depiction of the mask featured in Michelangelo’s Dream of Human Life, widely recognized as his self-portrait, and the depiction of Pan and its expression. In light of these and other observations, this study defends the traditional attribution of Ludovisi Pan to Michelangelo and further argues that the statue is a representation of Michelangelo’s self-portrait.

Left: ‘Pan’ attributed to Michelangelo at the Casino dell’ Aurora. Photo by the author. Right: detail of Michelangelo, Il Sogno (The Dream).

My second post, “Part II: Testimonia (sketches, earlier inventories)” featured various representations of the Ludovisi Pan from the 18th century, including drawings by Hamlet Winstanley, Pompeo Batoni, Bernardino Ciferri, and Antonio Canova. During my research on this statue, I presented a second drawing by Michelangelo of a faun-like creature (from Frankfurt’s Städel Museum), and emphasized the stylistic similarities of Pan’s facial depiction by Winstanley. I also discussed Villa Ludovisi inventories from 1633, 1641, 1733, and 1749, which not only provide information on the physical location of the Ludovisi Pan but also indicate its high value at 4000 scudi in the 1749 inventory.

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. Image credit: L. C. Bulman

In Part III: Reception, I focused on the presentation, physical location, and the reception of the Ludovisi Pan by collecting scholarly reactions to the traditional attribution to Michelangelo. This portion of my research highlighted that before the 1760s, no guidebook identified the statue as Michelangelo’s work, but its explicit identification as such became common after ca. 1770, especially in French sources. Additionally, I discussed the statue’s placement in four different locations on the Villa Ludovisi’s property and argued that the statue’s subject matter (specifically, its ithyphallicism) had a negative impact on its physical location, acceptance, and ultimate fate.

From J. Lacombe, Dictionnaire historique et géographique portatif de l’Italie, Volume 1 (1775), apparently the first published identification of the Ludovisi Pan as Michelangelo’s work

In my Parts II and III, I already focused on the issue of the deteriorating condition of the Ludovisi Pan by comparing its current state with its past state. This post aims to delve deeper into this matter by closely examining the current physical condition of the Ludovisi Pan. Despite the Pan statue’s ability to express Michelangelo’s sculptural language (as discussed in Part I), and the presence of numerous valuable testimonies linking it to the artist (as explored in Part III), it has suffered significant deterioration over four centuries due to its outdoor location, resulting in its underestimation as a work of art. 

Indeed, the Pan has been wholly unprotected from the elements since ca. 1900; in 2011, when the Pan was last conserved, efforts by Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi to get permission to move the sculpture indoors did not meet with success.

Yet the statue clearly shows a loss of surface detail, probably due to external and environmental factors such as weather conditions and acid rain on this statue, which are irreversible. My intention also is to highlight areas damaged in a much earlier era, repaired with metal pieces, as well as point up residues on the marble surface of the statue. Here I highlight the urgent need for its preservation for future generations.

As part of our examination of the statue’s physical condition, this post will also discuss a significant but undiscussed feature of the statue’s base: an inscribed inventory number, carved in large numerals demonstrably no later than 1633. I will explore how this discovery can aid in tracing the statue’s provenance by cross-referencing it with other such inventory numbers on sculptures from the Ludovisi collection, more than two dozen in all. 

Physical condition of the Ludovisi Pan: Holes and metal pieces 

At first glance, the 16th-century life-sized Ludovisi Pan may appear to be in good condition. But a thorough analysis of its former attributes is necessary to determine the differences between its past and present state of preservation. 

As I discussed in Part II and Part III, representations of this statue by 18th century artists such as Pompeo Batoni, Bernardino Ciferri, and Antonio Canova offer insight into the statue’s former condition, with all of its distinctive details. Additionally, Hamlet Winstanley’s (1723) drawing not only attests to details that have since disappeared, including facial features and portions of the beard, but also confirms what we find in traveler accounts by Francis Mortoft (1659) and Pietro Rossini (1693), extending to Carlo Fea (1822), J.-C. Fulchiron (1841), Giuseppe Robello (1854), and Armand de Pontmartin (1865), all of which praise the Ludovisi Pan and provide further reactions to the statue’s vivid details.

From left, depictions of the Ludovisi Pan by Hamlet Winstanley (1723); Pompeo Batoni (ca. 1727-1730); Bernardino Ciferri (ca. 1710-30), and Antonio Canova (1780). See my Part II for full discussion.

Depictions of the statue in photographs from 1885 (originally for a private family photo album) and even as late as 1986 (provided by Maria Elisa Micheli in Beatrice Palma’s comprehensive catalogue of ex-Ludovisi sculptures) also highlight fine details now vanished. 

Images of the Pan by Maria Elisa Micheli (1986, in Palma I 6) and Ignazio Boncompagni Ludovisi (1885, from a family photo album ‘Villa Ludovisia’)

In this segment of this research, my focus will shift to the examination of each individual damaged component of the statue, in order to underscore the pressing need for the preservation of this 16th-century artwork. My study reveals that the Ludovisi Pan has damaged areas that fall into five distinct categories: holes, in some of which metal pieces are visible; cracks; broken parts; scratches; and residues. 

It was Professor T. Corey Brennan who drew my attention in photos of the sculpture to a visible series of shallow drilled holes in the Pan sculpture. These holes are principally found at the neckline (beneath the beard), on the right hand, and on the stomach (from the viewer’s perspective to the left-hand side); additional holes can be seen on other parts of Pan’s body. Notably, two of these holes still have rusty metal pieces protruding from them.

A metal piece and holes on the neckline of the Pan. Photo: T. Corey Brennan.

Upon closer analysis, it becomes clear that the insertion of one particular metal piece, now rusted, has caused a crack to form on the surface of the lip, particularly on the left side. This metal pin and the hole located on the upper lip are prominently visible in photographs from 1986 that were provided by Micheli.

Detail of the Pan showing the metal pieces on the lip, seen also in Maria Elisa Micheli’s 1986 photo.

Additionally, Micheli’s photographs show the beard in a condition markedly dissimilar from its present state. From examination of our recent photos and comparison with Micheli’s photos, it is evident that a considerable gap has appeared in Pan’s beard over the course of almost 40 years.

Left: Ludovisi Pan in 1986 by Maria Elise Micheli. Right: Ludovisi Pan in 2022 with breaks in the beard (photo: T. Corey Brennan)

Indeed, to fully understand the changes that have occurred to the Ludovisi Pan over time, it is important to closely compare depictions of the statue from different periods. Notably, a comparison between Hamlet Winstanley’s 1723 depiction and a photograph taken in 2022 reveals a striking absence of the mustache, particularly in the middle of the space where it should be located between the nose and lip. This gap is also visible in a 2022 profile photo of the statue, which exposes the missing section over the upper lip.

Detail of Ludovisi Pan showing the missing middle part of the mustache. Photo: T. Corey Brennan

In addition, a comparison between the appearance of the beard in Winstanley’s depiction, in 1885 photographs, and in recent (2022) images, shows that the beard has lost its original shape over time.

Left: Ludovisi Pan in 2022. Top right: the detail of Hamlet Winstanley’s depiction showing the former state of the beard. Bottom right: detail of the holes and metal pieces on the upper lip.

The presence in the front neck area of holes and metal parts suggests various attempts to repair or reinforce portions of the beard. However, their specific function remains unclear. The holes and metal pins located on the upper lip and behind the damaged beard seem unrelated to numerous other smaller holes present on the statue, including its back and front.

Detail of the Ludovisi Pan displaying the holes on the different parts of the body. Photo: T. Corey Brennan

One hole, however, that has been conclusively identified, thanks to 18th-century drawings and historical photos from 1885, is the large hole located in the statue’s genitalia. This hole served as the place where a large (apparently metal) fig leaf was hung, as I discussed in Part III. While Joseph Vernet‘s 1737 depiction portrays the statue with an enormous fig leaf, Antonio Canova’s 1780 sketch highlights this hole in his drawing while depicting Pan without the fig leaf. Additionally, photos from 1885 explicitly show the statue with a fig leaf. All of these visual pieces of evidence help to elucidate the purpose of the hole in Pan’s genitalia.

Left: Antonio Canova’s Ludovisi Pan depiction showing the hole on the genitalia (from Palma I 4 ). Center: Joseph Vernet, sketch (1737) of the Niche with Pan beneath a sarcophagus and its lid. Right: the Pan (1885) in its aedicula constructed ca. 1800 to replace the Niche.

In reviewing recent photographs of the statue taken in 2022, I have identified additional areas of damage that require attention. Specifically, the right hoof of the goat-like legs exhibits a broken section. Since it is also seen in Micheli’s photographs from 1986, the damage occurred before that date.

Left: present condition of the hoof (photo by T. Corey Brennan); Center and right: condition of this hoof in 1986 (photos by Maria Elisa Micheli)

Furthermore, another damaged area is present on the right hand—similar to a scratch—although the cause of this damage is difficult to figure out.

Detail of the Ludovisi Pan showing the damaged part of the right hand. Photo: T. Corey Brennan

The statue also exhibits numerous cracks throughout. Of particular concern is a growing crack located between the eyebrows, which compromises the distinctive wrinkle feature of the statue. This crack appears to be extending towards the top left. Another crack is visible on the left side of the elongated left ear.

Above and below: details of the Ludovisi Pan, showing growing cracks between the eyebrows (photos T. Corey Brennan).

Additionally, the phallus exhibits several growing cracks on the surface of the marble. Moreover, the animal pelt on the back displays two cracks, one of which is smaller than the other. It is imperative that these damaged areas should receive immediate attention to prevent further deterioration of the statue’s condition.

Detail of the Ludovisi Pan, showing several cracks on the marble surface of the phallus area (photo T. Corey Brennan)

In addition to the presence of cracks, the statue also bears numerous scratches that show the damage it has suffered over time. Notably visible are two parallel scratches on the back of the statue’s head. The origin of these scratches is difficult to determine, especially given the statue’s current elevated position. It seems reasonable to suppose they were incurred during the relocation ca. 1900 of the statue from its former location against the wall to its current position in the garden of the Casino dell’Aurora. Similarly, another set of parallel scratches, less severe, can be observed in a quite different part of sculpture, on the right side of the tree trunk.

Images showing parallel scratches on the back of head and the the right side of the tree trunk (photo T. Corey Brennan)

One crucial factor that affects Ludovisi Pan’s ability to express Michelangelo’s stylistic language is the disappearance of its distinctive details in the depiction of hair and beard. Specifically, the curled beard and hair of the Ludovisi Pan exhibits a remarkable resemblance to the depiction of the individual twisted curls of hair on the head of the satyr in Michelangelo’s Bacchus group. These curls are represented independently as a component of this stylistic hair. 

However, a comparison between Micheli’s 1986 photos and our recent photos from 2022 highlights the loss of these details, particularly the depiction of a pronounced curly beard on the left side of the statue’s face (surely once found also on the other side as well). Here it is important to recognize an unfortunate fact: that without proper preservation measures, such as relocating the statue indoors, it will become progressively more difficult in the future to make any meaningful comparison between Ludovisi Pan and Michelangelo’s works.

Above left: detail of the satyr by Michelangelo (the Bacchus); above right: Ludovisi Pan in 1986 in photo by Maria Elisa Micheli (Palma I 6). Below left: detail of the Ludovisi Pan showing the curled beard and hair (1986 photo by Maria Elisa Micheli); below right: detail of the Ludovisi Pan (photo T. Corey Brennan)

Another important aspect is the presence of black residue located under the statue’s right arm and on its back. This reminds us of Giuseppe Felici’s observations (1952) regarding the heating system, presumably charcoal, inside the aedicula that we discussed in Part III. The statue underwent extensive cleaning during the spring of 2011. The area underneath the right arm, where the animal pelt is exposed, suggests that the Pan was previously uncleaned—and highlights the smooth and possibly polished condition of the marble in the cleaned areas of this particular section. Furthermore, another dark area is visible on the back of the statue, as well as on the left side of the animal pelt situated on the torso.

Details of the Ludovisi Pan, showing black residue under the right arm and on the back of the pelt. Photo: T. Corey Brennan

Upon thorough examination, it is apparent that the cleaning process of this Pan led to the exposure of various damaged, cracked, broken, and rusty portions of its body.

Display of the Pan in the garden of Casino dell’ Aurora in June 2010, showing the statue prior to its cleaning. Photo: T. Corey Brennan

One of the most important damaged parts is the rear portion of the right arm of the statue which appears almost detached from the back and may have undergone repair. These growing cracks on the back arm require immediate preservation. Moreover, several small holes are visible next to the animal pelt on the statue’s back. 

Detail of the Ludovisi Pan showing the crack on the back of the right arm. Photo: T. Corey Brennan.

Additionally, the presence of rusty metal pieces on the upper body of the statue triggers my curiosity regarding the appearance of the pointer finger on the statue’s left hand. It shows some reddish residues, and the possibility of metal fragments inside the finger.  The cause of this damage remains unknown, although we do have testimony on harm inflicted precisely on this party of the Ludovisi Pan.

Detail of the Ludovisi Pan showing the broken segment of beard. Photo: T. Corey Brennan

On 31 October 1864 a French publication from Nîmes, Le Courrier du Gard: Journal Politique, Administratif et Judiciaire, reported that a “stupid lord” damaged a finger of Michelangelo’s faun at the Villa Ludovisi. The article makes a highly critical assertion about high status English tourists in Europe, “from the desecrating diplomat who mutilated the Parthenon to the stupid lord who broke a finger of Michelangelo’s faun at the Villa Ludovisi, [who] can pay no other homage to masterpieces of work of art than to snatch from it a shred, a stone, some piece of cornice, of fresco, of mosaic to carry in triumph to their country.” 

The index finger of the left hand of the Ludovisi Pan showing the rusty residue. Photo: T. Corey Brennan

Of general relevance here is the report by Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768) of his near-death experience in the Villa Ludovisi in spring 1756. “I climbed onto the base of a statue to see the work on the head more closely”, he wrote, “thinking that it was set in iron as usual. As I descended, it falls and breaks…I feared that one of the workers in the garden would notice the accident and report it to the custodian while I was looking at the gallery [i.e., of statues in the Palazzo Grande of the Villa]”, and so he bribed the man to keep silent “with a few ducats”. Winckelmann concludes, “I have never been in such a deadly state of agitation.”

It does seem that Winckelmann saw the Ludovisi Pan in 1756. In his careful (unpublished) notes on the Villa Ludovisi, he states “on the square in front of the Silenus, the navel of the Satyr is comparable to the navel of the Borghese Centaur. This Satyr is certainly a creation of more recent times and tastes of the school of Michelangelo.” 

Comparative views of the navel of the Ludovisi Pan (left) with Borghese Centaur (center, 3D model by Matthew Brennan). At right, 1723 depiction of the Ludovisi Pan by Hamlet Winstanley

Yet the location he offers is puzzling. The Silenus was situated in the “Bosco delle Statue,” the piazza between the Palazzo Grande and the Labyrinth, along with the Leda group and Pan and Daphnis, as shown in Johann Wilhelm Baur‘s drawing (before 1640).

Johann Wilhelm Baur (before 1640), view of the piazza between the Palazzo Grande and the Labyrinth in the Villa Ludovisi, with Pan and Daphnis (on the left), Silenus with the sarcophagus (at the center), and Leda group (on the right).

While these two ancient statues were moved inside around 1805, the Silenus has remained outside until this day (it is on the grounds of the ex-Palazzo Piombino on Via Veneto that now houses the US Embassy in Rome). On the other hand, the Ludovisi Pan was positioned at the northern boundary of the Villa against the Aurelian wall since at least 1633, and can be shown to be there in 1737, as a drawing of Vernet illustrates, Guidebooks from 1744 (De Ficorini) and 1766 (Venuti) confirm this location, as I demonstrated in my Part III. It was moved to the garden of the Casino dell’Aurora in 1901.

Detail of Joseph Vernet sketch (1737) showing the Niche (Aedicula) with the sarcophagus and the lid and the Pan inside with the fig leaf, close by the Aurelian Walls that bounded the Villa Ludovisi to the north.

Based on this information, if Winckelmann in 1756 saw the Pan in the front of the Silenus, it was placed there temporarily, perhaps in response to crumbling of the Aurelian Wall—a problem that indeed caused the separation of the Pan from the wall in the years ca. 1779-1800. So it must remain quite uncertain which statue Winckelmann had broken in the garden of the Villa Ludovisi. The important point is that supervision in the garden portion of the Villa Ludovisi was so lax that visitors could have physical contact with the sculptures in a way that would have been impossible in the indoor galleries. 

Of course the statue will have sustained damages in different ways. Regarding deterioration, acid rain could be one of the external factors contributing to the deformation of the marble surface of the Ludovisi Pan. The detrimental effects of acid rain on outdoor sculptures have long been recognized, particularly in Rome. It is reasonable to speculate that acid rain may have played a role in the loss of surface details. During my visit to the statue, I observed that despite not being an unfinished sculpture, almost the entire marble surface appeared extensively eroded except the layer of the animal pelt beneath the right arm which reveals the smooth surface of this marble sculpture. A prime example of this deformation can be seen in the broken beard, where the upper part retains (almost) its broken shape while the lower part, below the gap, appears rounded and worn.

Detail of the Ludovisi Pan in 2022 showing the broken beard segment (photo T. Corey Brennan). Right: detail of Ludovisi Pan in 1986 (photo by Maria Elise Micheli

Inscribed inventory number of Ludovisi Pan: note on the provenance 

A close examination of the physical condition of the Ludovisi Pan reveals on its base a large carved inventory number. It was Theodor Schreiber in 1880 in his Die antiken Bildwerke der Villa Ludovisi in Rom who first noted its presence, registering it as an “Alte Inventarnummer”, and recording similarly carved numbers on more than two dozen other sculptures in the Ludovisi collection. These numbers prompted no further interpretation by Schreiber, nor have they interested later scholars who have treated Ludovisi sculptures. 

As I presented in Part III, I want to stress the fact that only two scholarly publications simply focus on the statue of the Pan in particular, and neither mention this inscribed inventory number. The first is a two-page article by Maria Elisa Micheli (1986) which describes Pan, highlights the value of this sculpture in 1749 as 4000 scudi, and also mentions its representation by 18th-century artists. The second is a 2018 publication by Francesco Loffredo; here he follows a suggestion of Francesco Caglioti (1998/1999) who attributes this Pan to Michelangelo’s assistant Giovann’Angelo da Montorsoli (1507-1563), without real argument other than to highlight their relationship.

The inscribed inventory number of the Ludovisi Pan is ‘248’, carved on the front side of the statue’s marble base. It is important to state that of the 339 pieces that Schreiber catalogued in the Ludovisi sculpture collection, he found only 28 marble pieces that have such carved inventory numbers. As T. Corey Brennan has informed me, we have no record that the Ludovisi or Boncompagni Ludovisi ever used these numbers in their inventories of the Villa, of which 20 are known (see the roster of inventories at G. Felici, Villa Ludovisi in Roma [1952] 119), dating from 1622 to the 1870s. 

The inscribed number ‘248’ on the right front of the base of the Ludovisi Pan. Photo: T. Corey Brennan.

It is reasonable to assume that these numbers were not assigned randomly. Also their similar style suggests that they were carved roughly at the same period of time. As it happens, most of the pieces with inscribed numbers are first attested in a 1633 Ludovisi inventory (without noting that number), and we will see evidence below that suggests they were likely assigned carved numbers before 1633. 

Another point: all of the sculptures with these numbers in the 17th century were exhibited in the garden of the Villa Ludovisi, and none inside the Palazzo Grande or other buildings. Additionally, it is worth noting that all the pieces with carved numbers are ancient, except for the Ludovisi Pan. However, Pietro di Sebastiani (1683) is typical in considering this Pan as ancient, along with the other Roman-era statues, low reliefs, and sarcophagi in the Ludovisi garden. Hamlet Winstanley, who had drawn the statue in 1723, also considered the Ludovisi Pan to be ancient in his letter to James Stanley (10th Earl of Derby) dated 22 January 1724. As late as 1780, Canova expresses doubts about whether the Pan is ancient, but does not know for sure, as discussed in my Part III. 

One final data point. Several of these sculptures with old inventory numbers are known to have come to the Ludovisi from the Cesi collection. These include a statue of the youthful Dionysus (old inventory number 288 = Schreiber 90); the statue of a seated Muse (Calliope?) (309 = Schreiber 61); Pan and Daphnis (314 = Schreiber 4); a female, seated robed figure, possibly a Muse (317= Schreiber 2); and a boy wrestling with a goose and a crouching Aphrodite incongruously joined to the same base (inscribed 312 = Schreiber 11 and 12, and as a group termed “Leda”). For the depiction of the Leda group, a drawing by Pompeo Batoni from the 1720s shows the group on the same rocky base. In the 1840s J. Riepenhausen depicts the two statues side by side but on different bases. The group formed by the two statues was eliminated by sawing the base when the statues reached the National Roman Museum, in 1901.

The “Leda” group. Left: depicted on the same base by P. Batoni (ca. 1727-1730). Right: Depicted on separate base by J. Riepenhausen (ca. 1840).

It is important to emphasize from the outset that the main objective of closely scrutinizing these inventory numbers is to see whether it allows one to trace the provenance of the Ludovisi Pan, by comparing it with the inventory numbers and provenance of other sculptures in the Ludovisi collection. The facts we have allow several possible hypotheses. These sculptures with crudely inscribed inventory numbers, including the Ludovisi Pan, may have come from the same pre-Ludovisi collection. Or perhaps these are movers’ numbers, carved to help with the organization of larger sculptures in the Villa Ludovisi garden; the early Villa accounts record many payments for the transport of sculptures (see Palma I 4 [1983] Documento 1). Or it is possible that these numbers reflect an early inventory scheme that the Ludovisi soon abandoned.

The range of these old inventory numbers starts from 203 and ends at 391. But interestingly, the first sculptures that Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi is known to have acquired for his new Villa, on 5 July 1621, have the highest numbers: a group of Herms that show the numbers 386 (Schreiber 55 = youthful clothed male Herm [Hermes Enagonios?] through 391 (Schreiber 62 = Herm of Heracles with fruit horn). 

The positioning of sculptures exhibiting carved numbers is also crucial. As noted, the Villa Ludovisi inventories indicate that in 1633 none of the statues carrying inscribed inventory numbers were placed indoors in the Palazzo Grande or the Casino dell’Aurora. These numbers were assigned only to sculptures located outdoors in the garden of the Villa Ludovisi. What is more, it appears that in 1633 some sculptures with contiguous numbers are grouped together. 

These numbered sculptures were found originally in three locations on the Ludovisi property. The first area is a piazza that served as an entrance to the wooded area between the Palazzo Grande and the labyrinth. Interestingly, the two standing Dacians (old inventory numbers 262 and 264 = Schreiber 125 and 126)) and the colossal Juno (263 = Schreiber 211) are numbered sequentially (262-263-264); from the 1633 inventory, it appears they were originally displayed near each other outside the Palazzo Grande, with Juno positioned between the two Dacians. But by 1641, this colossal statue had been relocated far away against the Aurelian Wall, in a spot more than 400 meters to the northeast. The 1641 inventory confirms the location of Juno against the wall. Historical photos from 1885 confirm the location of both the Dacian captives (which remained unmoved) and the relocated Juno.

Above: at left, a pair of Dacian prisoners (from 112 CE) stands at the entrance of Casino dell’Aurora, moved ca. 1885 from their original position in a plaza in front of the ex-Casino Capponi of the Villa Ludovisi; at right, the inscribed number ‘262’ on the base of the left Dacian statue. Below: the colossal Juno statue (now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts) as it stood in 1885, with inscribed base with number ‘263’. 1885 photo: Ignazio Boncompagni Ludovisi. Other photos: T. Corey Brennan.

The second area where numbered sculptures were found is the ‘Galleria del Bosco’, where only one statue is listed: the Ludovisi Pan (old inventory number 248 = Schreiber 210a), which is described as being situated between “two cypresses.” The 1633 and 1733 inventory confirm this position against the wall and between these trees; I discuss other testimonies for this location at length in my Part III. 

The third area in the Villa Ludovisi property for pieces with an old inventory number is the Piazza of the Casino dell’Aurora. There another strong cluster of six herms (numbers 386, 387, 388, 389, 390, 391 = Schreiber 55, 8 , 3, 60, 1, and 62) by 1633 were placed together. Ludovisi accounts show (Palma I 4 [1983] Documento 1) that 180 scudi were paid for these six ancient herms as a group on 5 July 1621. 

Moreover, a tight sequence of five pieces with old inventory numbers in the order 316, 314, 313, 312 and 311 was arranged together. This cluster includes especially prominent sculptures in the Ludovisi collection, originally positioned close to the Palazzo Grande and a Flora statue holding a garland of flowers (Schreiber 150) in the Bosco delle Statue (cf. the 1749 inventory transcribed in Palma I 4 [1983] Documento 16 entry 179). The five pieces are the Satiro Versante (old inventory number 316 = Schreiber 71), the Satyr teaching pipes or “Pan and Daphnis” (314 = Schreiber 4), the reclining Silenus (313 = Schreiber 137) who rests on a sarcophagus (Schreiber 136), and the “Leda” group (312 = Schreiber 11 and 12), which are two unrelated sculptures (a boy wrestling a goose = Schreiber 11, and a crouching Aphrodite = Schreiber 12) placed in the early modern era on the same base. Rounding out the cluster is a male statue wearing a chlamys (Hermes?) (311 = Schreiber 28). 

It is crucial to note that Johann Wilhelm Baur represents three of these five pieces displayed together in an etching he executed before 1640, which in turn gives us a valuable terminus for the display history of the pieces we are examining. In Baur’s depiction, Pan and Daphnis (old inventory number 314) is depicted on the left, the Reclining Silenus (313) is depicted at the center on a giant sarcophagus, and the “Leda” group (312) is shown on the right, with two statues on the same base. 

Two other drawings by Baur of statues demonstrably in the 17th century Ludovisi collection are relevant for our inquiry. When combined, they show figures with near-contiguous old inventory numbers that were grouped together. One of Baur’s drawings depicts two seated Muses. One, shown on the left, cannot be readily identified; but on the right we see a seated Muse that bears old inventory number 309 (= Schreiber 61), with Flora (Schreiber 150) on the far right. The second drawing again shows Flora, and nearby a statue of Hermes (311 = Schreiber 28). The publication of Baur’s second drawing introduces an unfortunate mistake: the location is stated to be the Villa Sora of the Boncompagni family at Sora. This is simply an error. In Baur’s two drawings, the bases of the statues are treated in the same manner, the hedges depicted are of equal size, and the presence of the Flora in both guarantees that the two drawings each render the Villa Ludovisi.

Above: etchings by Johann Wilhelm Baur of the Villa Ludovisi in Rome (before 1640), showing at left two seated Muses; and at right, Flora and Hermes (with erroneous caption). Below: at left, J. Riepenhausen ca. 1840 sketch of Calliope (Palma I 5 no, 36, today in MNR Palazzo Altemps); at center, Flora (Palma I 6 no. 24, today at US Embassy in Rome); at right, Mercury (Palma I 5 no. 61, today in MNR Palazzo Altemps).

T. Corey Brennan suggested to me as one possibility that the Ludovisi acquired these 28 sculptures with old inventory numbers as a group. If so, the Ludovisi initially seem to have retained some of the original compositions, such as the colossal Juno between two Dacians, the ensemble of Pan and Daphnis—Silenus—Leda, and the six herms in a semi-circle. In one case, they clearly changed their minds by 1641, and moved the colossal Juno a distance of some 400 meters. Eventually, Pan and Daphnis and the Leda group were moved indoors at the beginning of the 19th century, along with most of the sculptures with carved numbers. Fully 19 of the 28 sculptures were moved into a dedicated museum space in one of the Villa’s buildings (the ex-Casino Capponi), while the remaining life-size or larger-than-life statues remained outside. Those included the Dacians and the reclining Silenus displayed outside the Palazzo Grande, and the Ludovisi Pan and colossal Juno, which each stood against the Aurelian Wall. 

Despite having the carved inventory number of the Ludovisi Pan, the question of the provenance of this statue remains quite open. Despite the many uncertainties, a close examination of the old inventory numbers leads me to conclude that the arrangement of sculptures with carved numbers may be a crucial factor in identifying their provenance. 

Of particular value to my study is a 2013 article by Katherine M. Bentz that focuses on the Cesi Garden and its sculpture collection. Bentz describes how from 1622 to 1623 Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi built his collection through acquisitions from the Cesarini, Altemps, Colonna, and Corpi in addition to the Cesi. Taking into account the entire collection of Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, 28 artworks are known to have been acquired from the Cesi collection, while the provenance of a further eight artworks from that source remains possible. 

Already in 1917, Christian Hülsen provided not only a comprehensive description of the sculptures in the Cesi garden but also the inventory list of the sale to Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi in 1622. This list comprises 36 lines, and records statues, busts with torsos, busts without torsos, a head, approximately fifty fragments of statues (including legs, arms, and feet), relief sculpture, and vases. This list shows the Cesi provenance of Pan and Daphnis (line 25) and the Leda group (line 26), and the statue of the youthful Dionysus (old inventory number 288 = Schreiber 90).

The inventory of the sale of antiquities from the Cesi collection in 1622 to Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi. In C. Hülsen 1917.

And in 1974, Marjon van der Meulen was able to pinpoint the precise location of numerous ancient sculptures in the Cesi collection at the time when Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi purchased them in 1622. The evidence is a spectacular painting by Hendrick van Cleef III of the Cesi garden as it stood in 1584. Meulen also discusses how the Cardinal bought the famed Hermaphrodite in 1622 from the Cesi collection, which he displayed indoors, in the Palazzo Grande.

Hendrix van Cleve III, Sculpture Garden of Cardinal Cesi, 1584. Credit: K. M. Bentz 2013.

However I must stress that though some of the ex-Cesi pieces that entered the Ludovisi collection have inscribed inventory numbers, most do not. In other words, we cannot assume that the old inventory numbers in the Ludovisi collection that we have been studying simply reflect Cesi provenance. One of several possibilities is that the inscribed inventory numbers on the sculptures indicate that they were part of an unidentified 16th-century collection that was absorbed by the Cesi and possibly other collections (such as Della Valle, Cesarini, Colonna, Orsini, or Cesi) before ending up in the Ludovisi collection through various routes. Or, as noted above, there may be more mundane explanations, such as that sculpture movers may have carved them for their own short-term purposes, or the Ludovisi started this mode of inventorying its sculptures but then abandoned it.

Finally, these crucial items presented by Hülsen, van der Meulen and Bentz, serving as documentary evidence, together indicate that the Ludovisi Pan did not originate from the Cesi Collection. 


The primary objective of this research is to explore the basis for the attributions of the Ludovisi Pan to Michelangelo and to present visual and documentary evidence to support my  findings. In Part I and Part II of this comprehensive research, I first made a stylistic comparison by highlighting the striking similarities between Michelangelo’s artistic style and the sculptural language of Ludovisi Pan. I supported my analysis with two evidence drawings by Michelangelo—the Dream (widely considered a self-portrait) and the Frankfurt Sheet—both of which demonstrate a remarkable stylistic similarity to the sculpture in the facial features. Additionally, I utilized visual sources such as representations of the sculpture by 18th-century artists and historical photos from 1885, 1986, and the 2000s to showcase the differences between the original state of the statue and its present state, revealing how the sculpture has lost many details due to its unprotected conditions.

It is important to note that we do not have any documentary and visual evidence to suggest that this statue has ever been displayed indoors since 1633. The 1633 and 1733 inventories describes this statue as standing in the Ludovisi gardens between two cypresses, and Vernet’s drawing (1737) confirms the position of this statue against the Aurelian Walls and between the two trees. Numerous guidebook descriptions as well as historical photos from 1885 show this statue at the same location. 

As a result of the statue’s position outside for four centuries, here in my Part IV I have highlighted the parts of the statue damaged as a result of unknown external or environmental factors such as acid rain. After a close examination, I discovered that the statue lost many of the vivid details that were present in previous representations by 18th-century artists such as Winstanley, Batoni, Ciferri and Canova. 

In addition, my study is the first to observe highly unusual metal pieces and holes on the upper body, specifically under the beard and on the upper lip. It is possible that these were inserted to provide support or to secure the beard or mustache. However, the function of the metal pieces on the lip and neckline and on the damaged area on the back of the right arm remain unknown. These interventions are likely to be some centuries old.

By showcasing the damaged parts of the statue, my aim is to encourage art historians to reconsider this 16th-century statue as an object that needs to be preserved. My research suggests a correspondence of its sculptural style with works by Michelangelo across several mediums, and has produced significant testimonies identifying it as a work by Michelangelo. Yet there is a risk that future scholars may miss this connection if the statue continues to deteriorate. Thus, it is crucial to take steps towards its proper preservation, to ensure that its value as a work of art and its quite possible connection to Michelangelo are not lost to future generations. 

My focus on the physical condition of the statue also uncovered its essentially unnoticed inscribed inventory number, which is 248, located on the front of the base. This inventory number may be our best clue to trace the provenance of the statue. Although my study thus far has not provided a conclusive answer to the question of the statue’s provenance, it shows that it did not come from the Cesi Garden, as evidenced by the sale of inventories of the Cesi family to the Ludovisi from 1622. This result opens up the possibility of exploring the inventories of other Roman families whose works were acquired for the Villa Ludovisi—such as Orsini, Colonna, Altemps, and Cesarini—to determine where this statue on a mythological subject originated before becoming part of the Ludovisi Collection. By underscoring the significance of preserving this cultural heritage for future generations, in this final section I also emphasize the urgent need for its proper conservation and care. 

The Ludovisi Pan in 1988 with Christopher Maczynski, then employed in restoration work at the Casino dell’Aurora. Credit: Christopher Maczynski.


Bentz, Katherine M. 2013.“The Afterlife of the Cesi Garden: Family Identity, Politics, and Memory in Early Modern Rome.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 72.2: 134–65. 

Hülsen, Christian. 1917. Römische Antikengärten des XVI. Jahrhunderts. Germany: C. Winter.

Justi, C. 1872. Winckelmann in Italien: mit Skizzen zur Kunst- und Gelehrtengeschichte des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts. Leipzig: Vogel.

Kansteiner, S., B. Kuhn-Forte and M. Kunze. 2003. Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Ville e Palazzi di Roma. Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Phillip von Zabern.

Lacombe, J. 1775. Dictionnaire historique et géographique portatif de l’Italie, vol. 1. Paris: Chez Lacombe.

Loffredo, F. 2018. “Pirro Ligorio and Sculpture, or, on the Reproducibility of Antiquity”. In Pirro Ligorio’s Worlds: Antiquarianism, Classical Erudition and the Visual Arts in the Late Renaissance, edd. F. Loffredo and G. Vagenheim. 324-359. Leiden: Brill.

Meulen, Marjon van der. 1974. “Cardinal Cesi’s Antique Sculpture Garden: Notes on a Painting by Hendrick van Cleef III.” The Burlington Magazine 116, no. 850: 14–24. 

Palma, B. 1983. Museo Nazionale Romano. Le sculture I.4: I Marmi Ludovisi, storia della Collezione. Milan: De Luca Editore.

Palma, B. and L. de Lachenal. 1983. Museo Nazionale Romano. Le sculture I.5: I Marmi Ludovisi, nel Museo Nazionale Romano. Milan: De Luca Editore.

Palma, B. L. de Lachenal and M.E. Micheli. 1986. Museo Nazionale Romano. Le sculture. I Marmi Ludovisi dispersi. I.6. Milan: De Luca Editore. 

Russell, F. 1987. “The Derby Collection (1721-1735).” The Volume of the Walpole Society 53: 143–80.

Hatice Köroğlu Çam graduated from Rutgers University in 2022 with a degree in Art History. Currently, she is pursuing her Ph.D. at Temple University. Over the last 15 months, Hatice has conducted extensive research on the Ludovisi Pan, under the guidance of Professor T. Corey Brennan of the Rutgers Classics Department. She expresses profound gratitude to Professor Brennan for introducing her to this unstudied work of art, and for providing her with guidebooks, documents, Italian translations, as well as offering her invaluable contributions, interpretations, guidance, and support throughout the research process. Hatice would also like to extend a special thanks to HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi for her encouragement and inspiration for this research and her dedication to preserving this statue. This study would not have been possible without her support.

The author with the Ludovisi Pan, Casino dell’Aurora, July 2022.

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