A young man lies stretched wide out on a rock. His posture appears provocatively lascivious. His head has sunk to his shoulder. His right arm folds back behind his head, his left arm, today broken off, hung sideways over a rocky spur.
The young man appears to be fast asleep. But is he really? When you look more closely, you will see that you are wrong. His rough and yet at the same time sensuous face is strained. His eyebrows are knitted over his closed eyelids. His open mouth indicates heavy breathing. The ivy wreath in his hair lets us know the reason, for such wreaths are worn above all by revellers. Intoxicated by wine and exhausted from dancing and revelling, the young man has fallen into a fitful, restless doze.
The meaning and the function of the figure can only be appreciated when you go round the other side of the statue. The little horse's tail that becomes evident from the back identifies the young man as a satyr, one of those half-animal beings from the entourage of Dionysus, the god of ecstasy. So this is not a human being at all, but a mythical being. So it fits that his size far exceeds human dimensions.
All of this now explains the most important features of the portrayal: intoxication, debauchery and sexual craving belong to the character of a satyr. They demonstrate the power of Dionysus, in whose honour the statue was presumably erected in a sanctuary.
The sculpture dates back to around 220 BC. It had already been stolen from Greece in Roman times and taken to Italy. It was found in Rome in 1624. The original marble is housed in the Glyptotek (Germany) after it was acquired by Ludwig I from the Barberini Collection, where it took its name.