Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. Sir Samuel Garth et al. (London, 1717), Book 1:89–93 and 107–16. The tree against which the satyr is pressed may stand for the tree of Jove, which yielded its acorns in an era of unlimited plenty: “The teeming Earth, yet guiltless of the plough / And unprovok’d, did fruitful stores allow: / Content with food, which Nature freely bred / On wildings and on strawberries [mankind] fed; / Cornels and bramble-berries gave the rest / And falling acorns furnish’d out a feast!”
In 1618, Rubens sent Carleton a list of the paintings available in his studio, including this description of the nine-by-eleven-foot composition: “Leopards done from nature, with satyrs and nymphs, original by my hand except a beautiful landscape done by the hand of a capable specialist in this field.” See Julius S. Held. “Rubens’s Leopards—A Milestone in the Portrayal of Wild Animals,” in M: Quarterly Review of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts 7, no. 3 (1975): 5. When planned for exhibition at the 1953 Winter Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the Leiden Collection painting was attributed to Peter Paul Rubens. On 1 June 1990, it was sold at Sotheby’s New York as a work by Jan Brueghel the Elder.
An exhibition catalogue of the Duc d’Orleans’s collection described Rubens’s composition as “symbolical of the Golden Age.” The Orleans Gallery, now exhibiting, at the Great Rooms, late the Royal Academy, No. 125, Pall Mall, April 1793 (London, 1793), 18. The Orleans composition was at that point attributed to Antwerp artist Martin de Vos (1532–1603). Quoted Julius S. Held. “Rubens’s Leopards—A Milestone in the Portrayal of Wild Animals” in M: Quarterly Review of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts 7, no. 3 (1975): 7 n. 6.
The description of the Orleans Collection is taken from the curator’s comments on the British Museum website for inv. 1837,0408.317: “From ‘Galerie du Palais Royal,’ a set reproducing 354 works from the collection of the Duke of Orléans, published by Jacques Couché . . . from 1786 to 1808. The plates were issued by series of 6, every 3 months, and each of them was accompanied by a text, engraved on the same plate as the reproduction; the first six plates were published on 15 February 1786 and advertised in ‘Affiches, Annonce et Avis divers,’ 25 February. . . . [The Galerie du Palais Royal] is also sometimes referred to as ‘Galerie du Palais d’Orléans,’ or ‘Galerie du Duc d’Orléans.’”
Apart from this panel, several other workshop copies of the composition exist in a range of sizes.
Auction catalogue, Koller Zurich, 21 September 2005, Sale A134, Lot 3042, with notes by Dr. Klaus Ertz, who dated the painting ca. 1626 and assigned authorship of the figures to Boeckhorst.
The characterization of the wood is based on visual examination only.