The bearded satyr is in the prime of his life, with two thin horns on his forehead and pointed ears. The nymph is ready to grab a grape in the basket. The two characters do not look at each other but have the same jovial smile.
They are featured in other compositions of the same period. In a lost painting known through copies, the same nymph is naked under a transparent veil. Interestingly they are linked with two group scenes, Bacchanal and Drunken Silenus, both of which are disgusting images intended to make viewers aware of the consequences of debauchery.
The Bacchanal, 95 x 107 cm, is traditionally dated around 1615 and kept at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Our satyr is on the left, nude and drunk, supported with difficulty by a naked satyress with legs and hooves of a goat.
The Drunken Silenus is traditionally dated between 1616 and 1617. The surviving version 212 x 214 cm kept at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich is one of Rubens' most famous masterpieces. Around the staggering satyr, all the other characters at the top of the picture are laughing. Another version was destroyed in Berlin in 1945.
In Drunken Silenus the woman just behind the satyr emits a happy look of connivance towards the spectator as if it was she who had abused the weakness of the old male with grape and wine. She had the same role as the central figure in Lot and his daughters painted in 1614 who is busy to drunk her father. It is not a coincidence that the faces of these young women are similar : they are certainly portraits of the ever smiling Isabella Brant, the wife of Rubens.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's.
SOLD for $ 5.7M including premium