Is this androgynous being a man or a woman? The work by painter Julie Wolfthorn (1864–1944) is known variously as “Piper” and “Woman Playing Pipe”. It shows a young faun or satyr (as the pointed right-ear suggests) with a reed pipe. These forest creatures from Ancient mythology were traditionally assumed to be male, but in the 19th century it was conceded that there might conceivably be female satyrs too.
The work was probably painted in Rome, where the artist spent a few months in 1900. There Wolfthorn studied her models in the open air. The relaxed technique and accurately rendered atmospheric light are clues. Shimmering patches of sun and green shadows allow the graceful figure to blend into the thick foliage behind. A life in harmony with nature – yearning for this ideal is the real theme here, no matter whether the piper is a boy or a girl.
Oil on canvas
46 x 36 cm
Endowment from the Dr. Jörg Thiede-Foundation, 2014