The Satyr and the Traveller
The Satyr and the Traveller (or Peasant) is one of Aesop's Fables
Aesop's Fables
Aesop's Fables or the Aesopica are a collection of fables credited to Aesop, a slave and story-teller believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 BCE. The fables remain a popular choice for moral education of children today...

 and is numbered 35 in the Perry Index
Perry Index
The Perry Index is a widely-used index of "Aesop's Fables" or "Aesopica", the fables credited to Aesop, the story-teller who lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 BC...

. The popular idiom 'to blow hot and cold' is associated with it.

The Fable

There are Greek versions and a late Latin version of the fable by Avianus
Avianus, a Latin writer of fables, generally placed in the 5th century, and identified as a pagan.The 42 fables which bear his name are dedicated to a certain Theodosius, whose learning is spoken of in most flattering terms. He may possibly be Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius, the author of...

. In its usual form, a satyr
In Greek mythology, satyrs are a troop of male companions of Pan and Dionysus — "satyresses" were a late invention of poets — that roamed the woods and mountains. In myths they are often associated with pipe-playing....

 or faun
The faun is a rustic forest god or place-spirit of Roman mythology often associated with Greek satyrs and the Greek god Pan.-Origins:...

 comes across a traveller wandering in the forest in deep winter. Taking pity on him, the satyr invites him home. When the man blows on his fingers, the satyr asks him what he is doing and is impressed when told that he can warm them that way. But when the man blows on his soup and tells the satyr that this is to cool it, the honest woodland creature is appalled at such double dealing and drives the traveller from his cave. There is an alternative version in which a friendship between the two is ended by this behaviour.

The idiom 'to blow hot and cold (with the same breath)' to which the fable alludes was recorded as Ex eodem ore calidum et frigidum efflare by Erasmus in his Adagia
Adagia is an annotated collection of Greek and Latin proverbs, compiled during the Renaissance by Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus. Erasmus' collection of proverbs is "one of the most monumental ... ever assembled" Adagia (adagium is the singular form and adagia is the plural) is an...

 (730, 1.8.30). Its meaning was further defined by the emblem book
Emblem book
Emblem books are a category of mainly didactic illustrated book printed in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, typically containing a number of emblematic images with explanatory text....

s of the Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

, particularly those that focused on fables as providing lessons for moral conduct. While Hieronymus Osius
Hieronymus Osius
Hieronymus Osius was a German Neo-Latin poet and academic about whom there are few biographical details. He was born about 1530 in Schlotheim and murdered in 1575 in Graz. After studying first at the university of Erfurt, he gained his Masters degree from Wittenberg university in 1552 and later...

 tells the tale of the traveller and draws the moral that one should avoid those who are inconstant, Gabriele Faerno
Gabriele Faerno
Gabriele Faerno, also known by his Latin name of Faernus Cremonensis, was born in Cremona about 1510 and died in Rome on November 17, 1561. He was a scrupulous scholar and an elegant Latin poet who is best known now for his collection of Aesop's Fables in Latin verse.-Life:Gabriele Faerno was born...

 puts it in the context of friendship and counsels that this should be avoided with the 'double-tongued' (bilingues). In this he is followed by Giovanni Maria Verdizotti, Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder
Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder
Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder was a Flemish printmaker and painter associated with the English court of the mid-16th Century and mainly remembered as the illustrator of the 1567 edition of Aesop's Fables.-Biography:...

 and Geoffrey Whitney
Geoffrey Whitney
Geoffrey Whitney was an English poet, now best known for the influence on Elizabethan writing of the Choice of Emblemes that he compiled.-Life:...

. However, in Francis Barlow's edition of the fables (1687), the Latin text warns against those whose heart and tongue do not accord, while Aphra Behn
Aphra Behn
Aphra Behn was a prolific dramatist of the English Restoration and was one of the first English professional female writers. Her writing contributed to the amatory fiction genre of British literature.-Early life:...

 comments in English verse that
The sycophant with the same breath can praise
Each faction and what’s uppermost obeys,

following John Ogilby's slightly earlier example of giving it a political interpretation. The Wenceslas Hollar
Wenceslas Hollar
Václav Hollar , known in England as Wenceslaus or Wenceslas and in Germany as Wenzel Hollar , was a Bohemian etcher, who lived in England for much of his life...

 print in that edition emphasises the lesson by showing the battle in heaven and the fall of Lucifer
Traditionally, Lucifer is a name that in English generally refers to the devil or Satan before being cast from Heaven, although this is not the original meaning of the term. In Latin, from which the English word is derived, Lucifer means "light-bearer"...

 as taking place outside the mouth of the cave in which the traveller is blowing on his broth.

The fable was included as Le satyre et le passant among the fables of Jean de la Fontaine
Jean de La Fontaine
Jean de La Fontaine was the most famous French fabulist and one of the most widely read French poets of the 17th century. He is known above all for his Fables, which provided a model for subsequent fabulists across Europe and numerous alternative versions in France, and in French regional...

 (V.7) but with no alteration of moral. However, this version too was to be reinterpreted in a political sense in the 19th century. In the course of his very free version, John Matthews
John Matthews (physician)
John Matthews was a versatile English physician and poet, also involved in local affairs and politics in Herefordshire.-Life:Baptised 30 October 1755, he was the only surviving child of William Matthews of Burton, in Linton, Herefordshire, who died 29 August 1799, by his wife Jane, daughter of...

 expanded the text to comment on the 1819 election in Westminster and advise the voters to adopt the satyr's view of blowing hot and cold. In France the satirical cartoonist J.J. Grandville also updated the meaning by showing a group of loungers reading and commenting on the newspapers in a public park next to a statue illustrating the fable (see in Gallery 4 below).

The Age of Enlightenment had intervened and prominent thinkers had then attacked the logic of this fable in particular. In the article on "Fable" in his Dictionnaire Philosophique (1764), Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

 remarked that the man was quite right in his method of warming his fingers and cooling his soup, and the satyr was a fool to take exception. The German philosopher Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was a German writer, philosopher, dramatist, publicist, and art critic, and one of the most outstanding representatives of the Enlightenment era. His plays and theoretical writings substantially influenced the development of German literature...

 asserts in one of his essays on fables that its fault 'lies not in the inaccuracy of the allegory, but that it is an allegory only', perhaps reaching towards the conclusion that the fable had been badly framed around an already existing proverb. 'The man ought really to have acted contradictorily; but in this fable he is only supposed to have done so.' By using the fable to focus on political behaviour, therefore, the writers and artists give it a justification not inherent within its narrative.

The fable in art

For a variety of reasons the fable of "The Satyr and the Peasant" in particular became one of the most popular genre subjects in Europe and by some artists was painted in many versions. It was particularly popular in the Netherlands, where it brought together the contemporary taste for Classical mythology and a local liking for peasant subjects. At the start of the 17th century the poet Joost van den Vondel
Joost van den Vondel
Joost van den Vondel was a Dutch writer and playwright. He is considered the most prominent Dutch poet and playwright of the 17th century. His plays are the ones from that period that are still most frequently performed, and his epic Joannes de Boetgezant , on the life of John the Baptist, has...

 published his popular collection based on Marcus Gheeraerts' prints, Vorstelijke Warande der Dieren (Princely pleasure-ground of beasts, 1617), in which the poem Satyr en Boer appears. This seems to have appealed to the imagination of the young Jacob Jordaens
Jacob Jordaens
Jacob Jordaens was one of three Flemish Baroque painters, along with Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck, to bring prestige to the Antwerp school of painting. Unlike those contemporaries he never traveled abroad to study Italian painting, and his career is marked by an indifference to their...

, who went on to produce some dozen versions of the subject and did more than any other painter to popularise it. He was followed in his native Antwerp by others such as Willem van Herp
Willem van Herp
Willem van Herp was a Flemish Baroque painter specializing in small cabinet paintings of "low-life" genre scenes and religious paintings.-Life and works:...

 and Jan Cossiers
Jan Cossiers
Jan Cossiers was a Flemish Baroque painter whose earliest works were Caravaggesque genre scenes and later specialized in histories and religious subjects.-Biography:...

, while in the Northern Netherlands it was taken up by the group of Rembrandt's pupils and followers, Gerbrand van den Eeckhout
Gerbrand van den Eeckhout
Gerbrand van den Eeckhout , was a Dutch Golden Age painter and a favourite student of Rembrandt. He was also an etcher, an amateur poet, a collector and an adviser on art.-Biography:...

, Barent Fabritius
Barent Fabritius
Barent or Bernard Pietersz Fabritius , was a Dutch painter.Fabritius was born at Middenbeemster, North Holland, the son of Pieter Carelsz. Fabritius. He studied with his brother Carel Fabritius, and probably with Rembrandt as well...

 and Claes Corneliszoon Moeyaert
Claes Corneliszoon Moeyaert
Claes Corneliszoon Moeyaert or Nicolaes Moyaert or Mooyaert was an authoritative Catholic Dutch painter. He followed Rembrandt in his use of red chalk....

, as well as by genre painters like Benjamin Gerritsz Cuyp
Benjamin Gerritsz Cuyp
Benjamin Gerritszoon Cuyp was a Dutch Golden Age landscape painter.-Biography:According to Houbraken he was a pupil of his uncle, Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp, who taught him together with his son Aelbert Cuyp...

, Jan Steen
Jan Steen
Jan Havickszoon Steen was a Dutch genre painter of the 17th century . Psychological insight, sense of humour and abundance of colour are marks of his trade.-Life:...

 and David Ryckaert the younger
David Ryckaert III
David Ryckaert III, sometimes called The Younger was a Flemish painter.-Biography:...


Although the Italians Faerno and Verdizotti were before them in literary treatments, the subject was applied to large-scale oil paintings by artists from Germany and the Netherlands working in Italy like Johann Liss
Johann Liss
Johann Liss was a leading German Baroque painter of the 17th century, active mainly in Venice.-Biography:...

 and Matthias Stom
Matthias Stom
Matthias Stom or Matthias Stomer was a Dutch golden age painter, considered being one of the masters of the Utrecht Caravaggism. Besides Stom and Stomer he has been referred to as Matthias Stohom / Stomma, Matheo Schem and Matteo Tomar...

, and later taken up by Sebastiano Ricci
Sebastiano Ricci
Sebastiano Ricci was an Italian painter of the late Baroque school of Venice. About the same age as Piazzetta, and an elder contemporary of Tiepolo, he represents a late version of the vigorous and luminous Cortonesque style of grand manner fresco painting.-Early years:He was born in Belluno, son...

 and Gaspare Diziani
Gaspare Diziani
Gaspare Diziani was an Italian painter of the late-Baroque or Roccoco period, active mainly in the Veneto but also in Dresden and Munich.-Biography:...

. Since the southern Netherlands were then under Spanish rule and paintings from there found their way to Spain, the young Diego Velázquez also made the fable one of his subjects. French treatments were largely confined to La Fontaine's fable and include a work by Pierre Marie Gault de St Germain, painted for King Stanislas of Poland and exhibited in the 1790 Salon, and one by Jules Joseph Meynier (1826-1903), exhibited at the Salon of 1872 and purchased by the state. There was also an English treatment by E.H.Wehnert
Edward Henry Wehnert was an English-born painter of landscape, genre and historical subjects, now best remembered for his illustrations in books and magazine.-Life and Work:...

 shown in 1833 at the exhibition of the New Society of Painters in Watercolours.

The scene of the fable depends on the version followed. The traveller is invited into the satyr's home, which is often shown as a cave - and is specified as such in La Fontaine's version. In early illustrations the guest may be shown, illogically, as being entertained outside the dwelling, rather than sheltering within it. During the 17th century, peasant interiors served as an opportunity to crowd the picture with small details and fill the space with animals and (where the theme is the friendship between satyr and man) members of the man's family. Alternatively, members of the satyr's family are shown where La Fontaine's fable is followed, culminating in the charming little satyrs who crowd round the traveller in Gustave Doré's illustration. The Netherlands painters also show a particular interest in light, especially those near in time to Caravaggio
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was an Italian artist active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily between 1593 and 1610. His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, had a formative influence on the Baroque...

and the effects he achieved. Most often the light enters from the door, although in some paintings the source is more ambiguous and creates a dramatic effect as it picks out a group either at the centre or to one side of the painting. Where the main interest is in the moral of the fable, the picture space is unencumbered and serves only as an accompaniment to the story. But as interest shifts away from the story as such, detail and composition become the main focus and the fable is relegated to being the excuse for an exercize of the painterly art.

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