Head of a Satyr, c.1885. Bronze, 321/8 x 291/8 inches (81.5 x 74 cm). Private collection. Click on image to enlarge it.
Legros modelled this relief of a smiling satyr’s head with a long beard in the mid-1880s. He exhibited a Head of Pan at the New Gallery in 1889. This is likely related to the satyr masks on one of the two fountains executed by Legros for the Duke of Portland at Welbeck Abbey in 1897.
Spielmann’s discussion of British sculpture at the end of the nineteenth century commented on the vigorous nature of these works by Legros: “His ‘Head of Pan’ and ‘Capitals of Plasters’ were exhibited at the New Gallery. Free, broad, and vigorous, they are as the opposite poles asunder from the delicate, poetic, and hopeful realism that is the prevailing note in English sculpture of today. They are satyr-like in expression and in feeling, ugly with that kind of ugliness which we sometimes prefer to beauty…And so Mr. Legros’ heads, when he pushes them to the limit of exaggerated expression, become almost grotesques – yet decorative and full of spirit and individuality; until to those who understand them they become ‘objects aimables’” (167).
The Magazine of Art when discussing the New Gallery exhibition of 1889 mentions this work of decorative sculpture:
Among the most remarkable works of sculpture which have been seen this year are the Capitals of Pilasters and the Head of Pan, which Professor Legros sends to the New Gallery. These broad-browed, thick-lipped, flat-nosed, satyr-like heads are modelled with breadth and vigour, and there is not a touch of littleness either in their conception or execution. They are of course entirely conventional in treatment; no trace of realism is to be observed in them. And this is as it should be; the artist has never forgotten that his capitals are intended to be architectural decorations and not mere representations of a sensuous type. These experiments of Professor Legros in a thoroughly conventional branch of art are particularly interesting, because it seems that the majority of our sculptors have failed to appreciate the decorative element in their art. They have cultivated, and with great success, a certain sturdy realism, which has only succeeded in making much of their work very dull…And it is just because statues of this character are so plentiful for this year that we turn with a kind of relief to Professor Legros’ satyrs. For in them at least nothing is sacrificed to the model. They bear no resemblance to anything in nature; they are simply forms, conventionalized in accordance with certain traditions, and adapted to the requirements of architectural decoration. The spirit of them is fine, though the decorative ideal is carried so far as to bring some of them within the realm of unconscious caricature. 
A plaster relief of Head of a Satyr of c. 1885 is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. This mask, although intended to be incorporated as a decoration for a fountain in an English country house, was created in the French “Beaux Arts” style. This style was popular for much decorative public sculpture in Paris in the late 19th century. This sculpture was influenced by the work of his friend Jules Dalou. Legros also made a number of different etchings of Satyr heads.
“The Sculpture of the Year.” The Magazine of Art XII (1889): 369-74.
Spielmann, Marion H. British Sculpture and Sculptors of Today. London: Cassell and Co. Ltd, 1901.
Last modified 15 November 2022