The rehearsal for a Greek Satyr play is the characteristic postlude for a Greek dramatic trilogy. This painting is a copy by Grant of a mosaic from Pompeii which is now in the Naples Museum. The action takes place in front of an Ionic portico hung with oscilla (an ornament freely suspended by a chain from an architrave between the columns of a peristyle). The ornament is seen in Grant’s painting but has not been copied. The bald and bearded figure wearing a Greek mantle (himation) and sandals is the chorus master, possibly the dramatist himself. He watches two actors wearing goatskin loincloths, who appear to be rehearsing dance steps to the notes of the double pipes played by a richly robed and garlanded musician (who would himself have appeared on the stage). On the right an attendant is helping another actor into a shaggy Silenus costume. Behind the seated figure, on a pedestal, is a male tragic mask and at his feet a female tragic mask and a Silenus mask. The mosaic which was the centrepiece of a black and white mosaic pavement decorated with a meander pattern, is a studio price (emblema) derived from a Hellenistic panel painting, perhaps one painted to commemorate a victory in a theatrical contest. It dates from the years between AD62 and AD79. Many of the colours in Grant’s painting differ and are brighter than the original. The red and yellow sash for instance, on the figure with the two pipes, is black and gold on the mosaic.
Paul Roche; Bonhams, November 10, 1983, The Property of Paul Roche, lot 79; Belgrave Gallery, June 1985 where acquired by John Constable