The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of June 7, 2024

Sheet of Satirical Studies (Amorini Riding Phalli)

Sheet of Satirical Studies (Amorini Riding Phalli)

c. 1650s
(Italian, 1615–1673)
Sheet: 14 x 36.7 cm (5 1/2 x 14 7/16 in.)
Location: not on view


This outrageous and comical sheet stands out as one of the few existing examples of Rosa's representation of bawdy material. While Rosa was not interested in lewd imagery for vulgarity's sake, he certainly enjoyed intellectual jokes that advertised his erudite knowledge. The grotesque face at the right, and the cupids that ride the almost-elephantine phalli at center reference Classical and Renaissance motifs. Heads composed of objects-particularly the famous Testa di Cazzi ("head of penises")-were frequently used as decoration on Renaissance maiolica ceramics. This kind of imagery- like the museum's witchcraft paintings-would have been understood by 17th-century audiences as more than just grotesquerie. The exaggerated and lampooning qualities of this drawing both reference and parody these famous artistic traditions, showing how Rosa frequently used satirical humor to establish his identity as a sharp and sophisticated artist.
  • Ex collections: Earl Spencer (Lugt 1530); [Herbert Bier, London].
    Aware of the Cleveland Museum of Art's fine collection of Italian and French drawings, Joseph McCrindle has given five sheets, five Italian and one French, to the CMA. Please see no. 1 for ex collections.
  • Langdon, Helen. Salvator Rosa Paint and Performance. London: Reaktion Books, Limited, 2022. .
  • The Novel and the Bizarre: Salvator Rosa's Scenes of Witchcraft. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (organizer) (February 15-June 14, 2015).
    The Cleveland Museum of Art (2/15/2015 - 6/14/2015); "The Novel and the Bizarre: Salvator Rosa's Scenes of Witchcraft"
  • {{cite web|title=Sheet of Satirical Studies (Amorini Riding Phalli)|url=false|author=Salvator Rosa|year=c. 1650s|access-date=07 June 2024|publisher=Cleveland Museum of Art}}

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