Pierre Puget was one of the greatest artistic personalities of 17th century France, active as he was as a sculptor, painter and architect. Having trained in Italy, he was unusual among his peers in that he worked almost exclusively away from the French court, mainly in Marseilles, the town of his birth, and Toulon.
When the grandfather of the present owner purchased the bronze in 1916, it was attributed to Leone Leoni, but catalogues of the family collection show that the connection to Puget's marble of the same subject was quickly recognised. The marble Faun is thought to have been one of the last works Puget executed before his death. In fact, its rather unfinished state has often been attributed to the fact that the sculptor died before he could complete it (for a discussion of the marble figure see the recent exhibition catalogue, op. cit., no. 47, pp. 142-143). A smaller terracotta version of the Faun also exists. Both marble and terracotta are today in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Marseilles, although records show that as late as 1784, the marble version was in the centre of a horseshoe-shaped staircase in the garden of Puget's house at Marseilles, the Pavillon de Fongate, even though the house had passed out of the hands of Puget's descendants.
The present bronze faithfully reproduces the figure of the faun, but has dispensed with the drapery and rockwork necessary to support the marble and terracotta versions. The result is that the diagonal lines of the composition are emphasised, and the pose becomes freer and more dance-like.
It is known that Puget cast many of his own compositions in bronze (ibid, no. 53, pp. 152-154), and it is interesting to note the relationship of the present example with the terracotta model in Marseilles. The bronze is approximately 2.5 cm. shorter than the terracotta, but this may be accounted for by the lack of a plinth. There are also numerous close parallels between the bronze and terracotta which do not correspond to the marble. It may be that the bronze is, in fact, cast from a mould taken from the terracotta. This argument is strengthened by the fact that the weakest parts of the bronze - the underside of the feet, the reverse of the right leg and the underside of the left forearm - are all areas which, in the terracotta, are covered by drapery or rockwork, and would therefore have had to be re-modelled in order to cast the bronze. As an interesting footnote, the family who purchased the bronze in 1916 were friends of a French family named Borély. The Borély family were the owners, in the 18th century, of the marble Faun, and also owned the terracotta version. Although it is clear that the bronze was purchased from a Belgian dealer, it is not impossible that the Borély family also owned this bronze, and that the dealer, Jean-Joseph Dillen, had acted as an intermediary between the two families.