© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.

Reference URL

Snakeman 1981
  • Artist Rooms
The mask and snake help to give this figure the appearance of being a satyr or (its Christian equivalent) a devil - characters and symbols of debauchery that fascinated Mapplethorpe. The twists and turns of the body and snake combined are reminiscent of Mannerist as well as Hellenistic art, subjects that interested Mapplethorpe. However, there are other precedents nearer in time. Baron von Gloeden took a photograph in around 1900 of a young man dressed up as a satyr - Mapplethorpe owned a print of this. Man Ray also photographed a female snake charmer as well as a naked woman holding up a black, African mask.

Glossary Open

Hellenistic Art

A term derived from the period in Greek history after the death of Alexander the Great to the accession of Augustus, (323–30 BC). Hellenistic art is typified by emotion and drama.


A style of art that spread from Italy to much of Europe in the 16th century, between the High Renaissance and Baroque periods. There is disagreement among historians as to its nature but it often seen as decadent, rejecting the classical ideals of the Renaissance and characterized by elongated figures.

Hellenistic Art, Mannerism


  • Acc. No. AR00193
  • Medium Photograph, gelatine silver print on paper
  • Size 44.10 x 34.20 cm (framed: 50.80 x 40.60 cm)
  • Credit ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008