Mid-2nd century A.D.
Palazzo Pitti, Treasury of the Grand Dukes
Inv. 1914 no. 1059
The small statue depicts a crying boy, chained at the waist and by one foot. The work, already listed in the 1588 inventory of Villa Medici in Rome where it is remembered as a “weeping slave”, had been transferred by 1625 into the hall on the ground floor of Villa del Poggio Imperiale in Florence, where it remained until the middle of the 19th century, when it entered Palazzo Pitti.
The boy is completely nude; only his left arm is wrapped in a cloak, the hems of which are draping onto a small pillar, decorated by a garland, a pair of ears and a bucranium.
This unique image is acknowledged as identifying the complex allegory of Cupid who, chained and without wings, is drying his tears with his right hand. We know of the punishment to which the little god was subjected from some fragments of the Palatine Anthology, a collection of Greek letters from the 10th century A.D., which relate that the goddess of revenge, Nemesis, punished Cupid for tormenting his many lovers. The episode is also known from other ancient works that depict Cupid with his hands tied behind his back or even being flogged, an iconographic theme that subsequently became successful in the Renaissance.
The sculptural work depicts a Roman replica of a Greek original from the Hellenistic age (1st century B.C.) and can be dated to the mid-2nd century A.D. There has been some debate as to where the statue of Cupid had been displayed in ancient times. Although, on one hand, the presence of the garland and the bucranium on the stand would suggest that the work had been placed in a holy location, the leather ties holding the child’s wavy hair in place - in the same way as the caps worn by the Greek athletes - would appear to indicate that at least the original prototype was displayed in a gymnasium.
The figure is wearing a pair of krepides or crepidae, a sandal worn in Greek and Roman times, characterised by a series of leather laces which, interwoven in different ways, held the foot onto the sole.Sometimes, as in the case of the statue in Palazzo Pitti, the krepides featured a tongue of leather that would run along the instep and had the dual function of decorating the footwear and of protecting the laces from rubbing against the foot. In the late Republican age, Cicero bitterly criticised the use of the krepides a fashion that had been introduced to Rome as the imitation of Greek costumes, and had therefore come to symbolise a wanton lifestyle.