Contest Between Marsyas and Apollo Before King Midas, c. 1720
25.1 x 20.5 x 4.5 cm
Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Acquired with the assistance of the Women's Committee
One of the most versatile and avant-garde sculptors in eighteenth-century Austria, Georg-Raphael Donner was celebrated for his figural sculptures, impressive fountains, and objects d’art. While some of his more monumental commissions celebrate the splendour of the Baroque, Donner’s smaller sculptures anticipate the Neoclassical style. The two terracotta reliefs in the WAG collection were likely made for a private collector, given their intimate scale. They document two corresponding and highly popular mythological scenes based on the allegorical musical contest between the hubristic Marsyas, the flute-playing satyr (driven by emotion and passion), and the Greek god Apollo, a lute player representing the power of reason and intellect. The first medallion recounts the competition between Apollo and Marsyas in the presence of King Midas, and the second presents the victorious Apollo as he ties the unfortunate satyr to a tree in preparation for his death by flaying.