Study of a Satyr by William Orpen 9 x 7 inches.

Estimate £400 – £600. Lot 59. Cheffins Auction, Cambridge, UK.  6th March 2018. (Update – Sold for £380).

Exhibited: Sir William Orpen, K.B.E., R.A., R.H.A. (Irish, 1878-1931). Study of a Satyr pencil (9 x 7 inches).
The Neptune Gallery, 122A St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, Orpen Exhibition, which was the first Orpen exhibition in Ireland (organised by Bruce Arnold).

European Fine Arts, 6 Lower Merrion Street, Dublin, Twentieth Century Drawings by Irish Artists, November 1989, no. 35.

A Satyr in Greek mythology is a naked male with ears, a tail and legs like those of a horse, often depicted with an erection. Satyrs were known as lovers of wine, music, dancing, and women. They were companions of the god Dionysus and were believed to inhabit woodlands, mountains, and pastures. They often attempted to seduce or rape nymphs and mortal women alike.

This study is from a sketchbook that Orpen kept when he studied at the Slade School between 1897 and 1899. It was supervised by Henry Tonks. He slightly annoyed Orpen, saying his drawing was “too slick”. This only meant it was too good for Tonks!  The sketch looks like Orpen’s friend and fellow Slade student Augustus John.


I include another of Orpen’s Satyr drawings (not in the auction) which is a self portrait of Orpen “I Gallump” with my pipes on the Plains of Meath – from his book – Stories of Old Ireland and Myself. Drawn in his early days at The Dublin Metropolitan School of Art.

Post by Dominic Lee.