Sanuto's engraving is based on a design by Bronzino for the inside of a harpsichord lid now in the Hermitage. Ovid had kept Apollo's musical competition with Pan, attended by King Midas (Metamorphoses 11.146-93), separate from that with the satyr Marsyas (6.382-400). Other sources, however, conflated them. The Florentine humanist Cristoforo Landino had named Midas and Minerva as judges of the contest with Marsyas, as they appear here at right. In the center, the defeated Marsyas is flayed, while in the background, Apollo punishes Midas for his bad judgment by attaching long ears to his head. Although the king hid them beneath a turban (not shown), his barber knew the truth and, sworn to secrecy, shouted it into a hole, as we see in the left foreground. The reeds that grew there whispered, "Midas has ass's ears." Sanuto has supplemented his model with the Muses from Raphael's Parnassus and a view of Venice.
Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
Inscription: Inscribed in plate on tablet upper right: "ALL'ILLVSTRISSIMO ET / ECCELLENTISS. SIGNOR DONNO [...] In Vinegia Il di XVIII di Luglio MDLXII / Divotiss. et humilijs / servitore / Giulio Sanuto"
Princes of Liechtenstein; Vendor: P. & D. Colnaghi & Co.
Bury 1990, no. 5
Michael Bury Giulio Sanuto A Venetian Engraver of the Sixteenth Century. Edinburgh, 1990, cat. no. 5, p. 31.