Apr 30, 2009

Sheet of Satirical Studies (Amorini Riding Phalli)

Sheet of Satirical Studies (Amorini Riding Phalli)

c. 1650s

Salvator Rosa

(Italian, 1615–1673)

Pen and brown ink, wash, and red chalk

Sheet: 14 x 36.7 cm (5 1/2 x 14 7/16 in.)

Gift of Joseph F. McCrindle 2009.154



This outrageous and comical sheet stands out as one of the few existing examples of Rosa's representation of bawdy material. While Rosa was not interested in lewd imagery for vulgarity's sake, he certainly enjoyed intellectual jokes that advertised his erudite knowledge. The grotesque face at the right, and the cupids that ride the almost-elephantine phalli at center reference Classical and Renaissance motifs. Heads composed of objects-particularly the famous Testa di Cazzi ("head of penises")-were frequently used as decoration on Renaissance maiolica ceramics. This kind of imagery- like the museum's witchcraft paintings-would have been understood by 17th-century audiences as more than just grotesquerie. The exaggerated and lampooning qualities of this drawing both reference and parody these famous artistic traditions, showing how Rosa frequently used satirical humor to establish his identity as a sharp and sophisticated artist.

See also
DR - Italian
Type of artwork: 

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