Monday, July 27, 2009

Pan and Satyrs

Today we start our week-long workshop on creature design at the Woodstock School of Art.

We’re going to create the most famous satyr, Pan, based on studies of a human and goat model, some skulls, and other props.

Here’s some background info about the creature we’ll be trying to bring to life:

In Greek mythology, Pan is the protector of flocks and shepherds. He lives in Arcadia, the region of rustic mountain folk. He is a satyr (in Greek, Σάτυροι — Sátyroi), half-human, half goat or ram. (“Satyresses” were a late invention of poets). In mythology they are often associated with male sex drive and vase-painters often portrayed them with uncontrollable erections. The early Greek respesentations of satyrs often showed them as balding and bearded, with human legs and a horse’s tail.

Their chief was called Silenus, a minor deity associated (like Hermes and Priapus) with fertility. These characters can be found in the only remaining satyr plays: Cyclops by Euripedes and Sophocles‘ The Searching Satyrs. The satyr play was a lighthearted follow-up attached to the end of each trilogy of tragedies in Athenian festivals honoring Dionysus. These plays would take a comic approach to the heavier subject matter of the tragedies in the series, featuring heroes speaking in tragic iambic verse and taking their situation seriously as “straight men” to the flippant, irreverent and obscene remarks and antics of the satyrs. The groundbreaking tragic playwright Aeschylus is said to have been especially loved for his satyr plays, but none of them survived.

Satyrs acquired their goat-like aspect through later conflation with the Roman Faunus, a carefree nature spirit of similar temperament. Hence satyrs are most commonly described as having the upper half of a man and the lower half of a goat. They are also described as possessing a long, thick tail, either that of a goat or a horse. Mature satyrs are often depicted with goat’s horns, while juveniles are often shown with bony nubs on their foreheads. Attic painted vases depict mature satyrs as being strongly built with flat noses, large pointed ears, long curly hair, and full beards, with wreaths of vine or ivy circling their balding heads. Satyrs often carry the thyrsus: the rod of Dionysus tipped with a pine cone.

Satyrs are described as roguish but faint-hearted folk — subversive and dangerous, yet shy and cowardly. As Dionysiac creatures they are lovers of wine, women and boys, and are ready for every physical pleasure. They roam to the music of pipes (auloi), cymbals, castanets, and bagpipes, and love to dance with the nymphs (with whom they are obsessed, and whom they often pursue), and have a special form of dance called sikinnis. Because of their love of wine, they are often represented holding winecups, and appear often in the decorations on winecups.

Some satyrs are depicted as old. On painted vases and other Greek art, satyrs are represented in the three stages of a man’s life: mature satyrs are bearded, and are shown as fat and balding, both a humiliating and unbecoming disfigurement in Greek culture.

This text is adapted from
Wikipedia and LOS Blog. and


Allan Cavanagh said...

Wow James, that uncontrollable erection looks a lot like a smiley face.

Lorna said...

Shame on you for distorting an image with unnecessary censorship!

kev ferrara said...

Lorna, I'm sure James did that out of courtesy, not censorship. His audience is quite wide, from 8 to 80 as the saying goes... and it isn't "members only." :) I'm sure the image exists in its unadulterated form elsewhere on the net, if you would like to see it.

Good luck with your workshop Jim! I bet people will have a blast!

Andrew said...

So, according to that entry, Satyrs didn't really adopt their trademark appearance until they were merged with a Roman variety of the same diety?

I'm sure the workshop will be a hit, I know if I was up in the NY area (and had the funds,) I'd be jumping at the chance too.

Steve said...

My past history includes a few years sharing a farm with two other couples. My wife and I had responsibility for the Jersey cow. The goats were not our department. Still, I can say with some authority...I hope you have an excellent goat wrangler on board for the modeling sessions. Persuading a goat -- particularly a male goat -- to buy into your plans requires a special touch. Wish I could be there for the workshop!

Brandon Cline-Jones said...

gonna have to agree with Lorna on this. There is no reason to censor this. I love how we can blow people up all day long and watch all the violence we want, but as soon as a nipple slips people get fined.....

big deal its a penis erect, be you eighty or eight, if you are a male you know what a penis is....

and if you are 80 or 8 and a female and have no idea what a penis is there are other issues and concerns to be addressed.

i, me said...

i agree with Kev,
obviously, the author of "dinatopia' has a lot of younger fans.

Lorna, etc, there are many forms of "censorship" - the 'bad' kind when say, a repressive government bans dissent. "good" censorship is usually self censorship , you know like not cursing in front of children or your grandmother.

Me: Newsflash- human beings have been clothing themselves for well over 30,000 years. It is a social taboo, in the west at least, to expose ones sexual organs (do I really have to tell you this?)

I love when people get in a tiffy about things like this then lack to courage to stand up about real censorship issues. There are people sitting in jail in Europe right now for saying politically incorrect things. That's real censorship. How many of you, who are European, have spoken up about that?

Encouraging 'decadence' does not lead to freedom, in fact it leads to the exact opposite.

Oscar Baechler said...

Lookin' forward to seeing the results!

Also, just cuz its sitting around and I should do something productive, here's a satyr drawing I did a while back that I might follow along with.

John Calvin said...

I appreciate the censorship. I have a link to this blog from my junior high school web site. I want my students to be able to enjoy Mr. Gurney's "education" without having to be too concerned about adult content. Thanks for keeping it family friendly.

I'm looking forward to tons of images from this workshop. Thanks!

James Gurney said...

Lorna, I understand how you feel, but I also anticipated that the unadulterated image would offend a lot of people. As Kev said, the image can be found pretty easily on a search for "satyrs." Museum people tell me they have a lot of ancient material that they can't exhibit.

I wanted to include that image mainly to show the Greek conception of the satyr, with the horse tail and the human legs. Yes, Drew, our modern idea of the satyr is the Greek image conflated with the Italic deity of Faunus, who had the horns and goat legs.

I'll try to post some images from the class as we go along this week, though we don't have much Internet access.

Daniel.Z said...

Very informative post. I had no idea Satyrs were so... naughty.

Roberto said...

Bouguereau did an exquisite painting of a Satyr being abducted by Nymphs.
I look forward to seeing the results of your workshop.
It’s interesting how the Trickster appears in different forms in different cultures. This deity seems to have passed from the Greek and Roman religions into the Christian story as the sexualized cloven-footed Satin (by way of the Persian/Zoroastrian Angra Mainyu?). At any rate, what is really puzzling me is what is he balancing on that happy-face symbol of his? A goblet? A basket? What is that thang? All this talk about erect penises and the devil reminds me that R. Crumb is having an exhibit of his ‘The Bible Illustrated: R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis’ at the Hammer Museum in L.A., from Oct.
24 thru feb. 7; and he is appearing at Royce Hall at UCLA on Oct. 29 at 8pm with Francoise Mouly, the art editor for the New Yorker. -RQ

Allan Cavanagh said...

It's your blog James but that kind of anticipatory self-censorship is very disappointing. Should museums be handing out blindfolds in case children see ancient Greek pottery? It's more titillating to cover the penis up this way, it's also mawkish, tittering and unnecessary.

Lester Yocum said...

Sorry, guys. Think about all the censorship you went through growing up. Parents do that all the time. I do. There's a reason for it; it's called "all things in their time and place." My kids aren't ready for uncensored anything. As they age, they'll eventually be able to handle it. In our society, people confuse censorship and license, and often believe they can ignore consequences. Freedom means responsibility, to the rising generation and everyone else. Please be respectful to the wishes of those who believe in raising children not beaten down by our society's damaged standards. There's an entire ocean of other places to see uncensored images. Let's keep this a haven.

Thanks, Mr. Gurney.

roryroryrory said...

I love reading your blog, and as an educator I've learnt a lot from your teachings, however, i'm somewhat stunned that you'd censor art in this way.

Roberto said...

O.K. Here’s my take:
Censorship is what is imposed on you; restraint, discretion or modesty is a matter of free speech and personal expression. If you want to host, update and monitor your blog to your standards feel free (and see how many wacko’s you start to attract). Mr. Gurney has his standards and his audience and seems to be doing just fine. If you really need to see erect art, go see R. Crumbs exhibit at the Hammer, I plan to;) -RQ

Olaf Johansson said...

Art should not be prevented from telling it's truth.