Sulla via di Dioniso
Un «putto giacente» al Tesoro dei Granduchi in Palazzo Pittilock_openopen access checkpeer reviewed
The aim of this paper is to propose a new placement for a little sculpture representing a lying winged child that is today in Florence, at the Tesoro dei Granduchi in Palazzo Pitti: ascribed until now to an unknown XVI-century sculptor, the artwork shows stylistic and iconographical elements that allow to suppose a roman origin and a possible dating to the Antonine age. The most curious detail, the forced position of the right wrist, unnaturally wheeled, finds until now just one known matching in an antique sleeping Cupid at the Musei Vaticani, and it is possible to consider some details of the sculpting method as typical of the II century AD. Otherwise, the depiction reveals a mixture of two iconographies, the ‘sleeping Cupid’ and the ‘bacchic child’ (putto bacchico), according to the eclectic practice attested in the late imperial age: the child’s posture is in fact similar to the ‘sleeping Cupid’ type, but the crown held in his left hand (and his heavy eyelids on the ajar eyes) helps to evoke the drunkenness induced by Dionysus, ideally connecting the image to the large tradition of representations of drunken bacchic children, attested here by sarcophagi and an ivory pyxis from Grumentum. Furthermore, the crown finds matches in depictions of deceased on the covers of the Klinentypus sarcophagi, showing dionysian attributes with an apparent connection to the otherwordly life. Given the analogue funerary destination of similar images of sleeping Cupids (surely attested, for example, by the setting of one of these on the cover of a sarcophagus in Copenhagen), it is therefore possible to suppose that the artwork was anciently pertinent to a similar context, as an allegorical portrayal of a deceased child or adult initiated to the mysteries of Dionysus.
keywords: Roman sculpture. Sleeping Cupid. Bacchic child. Dionysus. Mysteries. Palazzo Pitti.Submitted: Feb. 27, 2016