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Relief - The Binding of the sleeping Silenus
  • The Binding of the sleeping Silenus
    Du Quesnoy, François
  • Enlarge image

The Binding of the sleeping Silenus

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Netherlands (South, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1650-1670 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Du Quesnoy, François (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case DR7

The monochrome colouring of material meant that these ivories could ape in miniature the ancient marbles much valued by connoisseurs and collectors of the time. This ivory is made after François du Quesnoy who was a Netherlandish sculptor, who spent most of working life in Rome and assimilated the classical style. His tender and sensuous reliefs of cupids, satyrs and small children were highly influential. See also inv.nos. 1060 to 1064-1853 for further reliefs in this group. It may have been made soon after his death in the second half of the seventeenth century Boudon-Machuel calls them pasticci, pastiches derived from in part from other compositions which Du Quesnoy executed on a larger scale in marble. Variants are also known in bronze, enamel and porcelain. The nicks on the back of the present reliefs, show that they were differentiated, and must have been made to indicate how they should be displayed at one time. The reliefs vary slightly in size from one another, but fundamentally they form a set, and must have been shown as a group together.

Physical description

Relief depicting a group of seven cupids and child centaurs binding the sleeping Silenus with ivy wreaths while a nymph is painting his brows with the juice of mulberries; fighting and drinking; making wine in a vat. There are trees and a distant cityscape. Two pairs of holes are drilled into the top for fixing purposes.

Place of Origin

Netherlands (South, made)


ca. 1650-1670 (made)


Du Quesnoy, François (maker)

Materials and Techniques



Height: 11 cm, Width: 15.8 cm

Object history note

Bought for £26 5s. in 1853 (vendor unrecorded). Perhaps purchased from Benjamin Lewis Vuillamy (1780-1854), clockmaker to the Queen. Possibly formerly in the collection of the Earl of Bessborough, sale Christie's, London, 7 February 1801, lot 30 (sold for £141 15s.):'six beautiful Groups of Boys, exquisitely carved in ivory, from nature, by Fiamingo; truly chef d'oevres of this celebrated artist; from the collections of the great Duke of Buckingham.

Descriptive line

Relief, ivory carved in high relief, Bacchanalian scenes, after François Du Quesnoy, South Netherlandish, ca. 1650-1670

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Laurent, M. Quelques oeuvres inédites de François Duquesnoy. Gazette des Beaux-arts. May 1923, pp. 298-300, ill.
Bellori, Giovanni Pietro. Le vite de' pittori, scvltori et architetti moderni. Rome : per il succeso, al Mascardi, 1672, p. 271
Scherer, Christian. Elfenbeinplastik seit der Renaissance. Leipzig : H. Seemann Nachfolger, [1903], pp. 30 ff
Maskell, Alfred. Ivories. London : Methuen & Co., [1905], p. 286, Pl. LVIII
Webb, M. Micjael Rysbrack Sculptor. London: 1954, p. 25
Boudon-Machnel, M. François Duquesnoy 1597-1643. Paris: 2005, pp. 44-83
Beaven, L. 'Camillo Massimi as Patron of Scultors: François Duquesnoy, Alessandro Algardi, Francesco Fontana and Cosimo Fancetti', Melbourne Art Journal, no. 3, 1999, p. 28 and figs. 4-7 on pp. 28-29
Lock, L. E. ' Art and Management of Netherlandish Wood Sculpture 1600 - 1750', Sculpture Journal, XII, 2004, pp. 27-28, fig. 2 on p. 25
Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1853. In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 41
The Art Journal, no. 852, pp. 115, 146, 191, 219, 244, 277
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. Part II. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1929, p. 73
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, cat. no. 101

Production Note

After François Du Quesnoy





Subjects depicted

Cityscape; Trees; Nymph; Horn; Ivy wreath


Sculpture; Myths & Legends; Reliefs


Sculpture Collection

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