This very beautiful marble sculpture represents a crying little boy leaning on a tree trunk on his right. He dries his tears with his right arm while his left arm holds the end of a small fabric that surrounds him and comes to rest on the trunk. With the exception of this sheet, the little boy is naked and wears on his head a cecryphale, a feminine hairstyle made up of a fabric holding the hair back. Her plump body is positioned in contrapposto.

Cupid chained, this motif takes up a complex allegory used by the sculptors of ancient Rome in the 2nd century AD. This unusual image has aroused the interest of researchers, as early as the 18th century, who have long called it a chained slave. In reality, it would be Cupid chained and devoid of wings following the punishment of Nemesis. Cupid is the Roman equivalent of the god of love Eros. Unlike the Greek god,

Cupid does not appear as one of the primordial deities and is always represented as a putto.

In the third volume of the Argonautics, Apollonius of Rhodes transcribes the words of Venus to Hera and Athena about the bad behavior of her son, the latter having taken up the bad habit of tormenting lovers.

“My son would rather obey you than me, for, however impudent he may be, he may hold you back in your eyes, but he does not care about me, he has no regard for me and he always provokes me. I even thought, not being able to bear his wickedness any longer, to tear him to pieces, in his presence, with my bow and my arrows. He threw such threats at me in his anger: if I didn’t keep my hands still, while he was still able to control his anger, then I would regret it. “.

The epigrams of the Palatine Anthology by Antipater of Thessalonica (1st century BC), describe the moment when the little god is deprived of his wings by Nemesis, goddess of divine vengeance, in order to punish him for his bad behavior.

“Who tied your hands to the pillar with a strong knot?/ Who opposed fire to fire and trickery to trickery?/ My boy, no tears! Do not wet your sweet face / For you revel in the tears of young people”.

A theme taken from Roman sculpture, although the iconography is not widely known today, it was a very common theme in ancient Rome, especially in the 2nd century AD, as in bear witness to numerous aftershocks. The models closest to our sculpture are two ancient marbles: the first is on display at the Uffizi in Florence and the second at the Borghese Gallery in Rome.

All the replicas are similar, which suggests the existence of a unique archetype serving as a model for production, which is only distinguished by small elements. The oldest known dates from the Hellenistic period (first century BC).

From the antique, our sculpture takes up the position as well as that of the sheet. It is closer to the Roman model of the Borghese Gallery with the tree trunk and a similar cecryphale. However, the composition does not take up the chains of the little god and the sculptor has chosen to represent him genderless.

The sculptor’s approach to taking up the antique model is reflected above all in the composition. He takes up the contrapposto, a position that adds dynamism to a sculpture. Nevertheless, the ancient sculptors generally inserted an element in order to ensure the stability of the whole, an idea taken up by our sculptor with the motif of the tree trunk.

What differs greatly from the two ancient marbles lies in the face of Cupid: here he is represented as a non-gendered toddler, a real putto with full cheeks, while the works of Rome and Florence depict him as a little boy. The patina and the work of the marble make it possible to affirm the antiquity of the object, reinforced by the use of the trephine. These elements remind us of the works of Pierino da Vinci (1529-1553), in particular his Putto with a mask made around 1544-46. This tradition of the putto in sculpture was later taken up by artists such as François Duquesnoy dit il fattore di putti.

Cupid reprimanded by Nemesis – Marble – Italy – 16th century