This inkwell appears to be a unique cast, although it is closely related to three variant bronzes in The Frick Collection, the Schlossmuseum in Gotha, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection. In his catalogue entry on the latter example, Radcliffe notes that these four are, in turn, related to a larger group of satyr inkwells; the group can be categorised into three basic types (Radcliffe, loc. cit.).
Although the poses, minor details and attributes change from one bronze to the next within the group, Radcliffe noted that the torso in each was so consistent as to suggest that they had all come from a single model. He concluded that '...the surfaces of the figures were modelled individually in wax over a core that was moulded in sections capable of assembly in a limited number of different ways, so allowing the poses of the arms, legs and heads to be varied' (ibid., p. 216). The models may have been used over a number of years, thereby accounting for some of the variations of quality and casting technique; certainly the present bronze is a thicker walled cast than its closest counterpart, in the Frick Collection.
When Wilhelm von Bode included the Frick version (then in the collection of Pierpont Morgan) in his catalogue of Italian renaissance bronzes (loc. cit.), he attributed it to Riccio. However, although loosely derived from Riccio's style, it is now generally accepted that these bronzes must originate from an independent workshop in the same milieu. Jeremy Warren argues persuasively (op. cit.) that the inkwells are part of a larger group which he attributes to Desiderio da Firenze (active 1532-1545), on the basis of common motifs and physiognomical types that he ultimately links to Desiderio's signed Voting Urn of 1532-33. However, comparison with the satyr seated atop the incense burner of the preceding lot shows sufficient differences - not least in the facial type - to suggest that a full attribution of this inkwell to the same hand might be premature.
This work is distinguished by having been a part of the Royal Saxon collection, formed to a great degree by Augustus the Strong. An ardent emulator of King Louis XIV of France, Augustus' political and artistic ambitions were equally extraordinary, and although his domestic and foreign policies were only partially realized, his achievements included the acquisition of the elective throne of Poland, as King Augustus II, and the transformation of Saxony, bringing Saxon Baroque architecture (particularly in Dresden, most importantly through the erection of the Zwinger) and the visual arts to an unprecedented peak, including the foundation of the Meissen factory. One of his most important achievements as patron was the systematic reorganisation and considerable extension of the family collections, which were also opened to the public, perhaps the first such public museum in Europe. These collections included the print rooms, the Grünes Gewölbe, the collection of antiquities, and above all the Gemäldegalerie, created in 1722 when the Stallhof, dating from the sixteenth century was converted into a gallery by Raymond Leplat. An inventory was drawn up of all the paintings in the royal palaces and 535 works were assembled to form what remains today one of the most prestigious collections of art in the world.