Bacchus (Caravaggio)

Bacchus (Caravaggio)

Infobox Painting|

type=oil on canvas

"Bacchus" (c.1595) is a painting by Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610). It is held in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

The painting shows a youthful Bacchus reclining in classical fashion with grapes and vine leaves in his hair, fingering the drawstring of his loosely-draped robe. On a stone table in front of him is a bowl of fruit and a large carafe of red wine; with his left hand he holds out to the viewer a shallow goblet of the same wine, apparently inviting the viewer to join him.

"Bacchus" was painted shortly after Caravaggio joined the household of his first important patron, Cardinal Del Monte, and reflects the humanist interests of the Cardinal's educated circle.

Whether intentional or not, there is humour in this painting. The pink-faced Bacchus is an accurate portrayal of a half-drunk teenager dressed in a sheet and leaning on a mattress in the Cardinal's Rome palazzo, but far less convincing as a Graeco-Roman god. The ripples on the surface of his wine look ominous: he will not be able to hold the pose much longer, and the artist had better hurry and finish the left hand.

The fruit and the carafe have attracted more scholarly attention than Bacchus himself. The fruit, because of the inedible condition of most of the items, is believed by the more serious-minded critics to signify the transience of worldly things. The carafe, because after the painting was cleaned, a tiny portrait of the artist working at his easel was discovered in the reflection on the glass.

Bacchus' offering of the wine with his left hand, despite the obvious effort this is causing the model, has led to speculation that Caravaggio used a mirror to assist himself while working from life, doing away with the need for drawing. In other words, what appears to us as the boy's left hand was actually his right. This would accord with the comment by Caravaggio's early biographer, the artist Giovanni Baglione, that Caravaggio did some early paintings using a mirror. English artist David Hockney made Caravaggio's working methods a central feature of his thesis (known as the Hockney-Falco thesis) that Renaissance and later artists used some form of camera lucida.

External links

* [ Discussion of Hockney's "Secret Knowledge" (his suggestion that the Old Masters used optical devices) and Caravaggio]
* [ Iconographic Themes in Art: Bacchus | Dionysos]

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  • Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da — (1571 1610).    Caravaggio was probably born in Milan. In 1572, he is documented in the town of Caravaggio where his family owned property, hence his name. In 1588 1592, he apprenticed with Simone Peterzano, a Milanese painter thought to have… …   Dictionary of Renaissance art

  • Caravaggio — /kar euh vah joh/; It. /kah rddah vahd jaw/, n. Michelangelo Merisi da /muy keuhl an jeuh loh meuh ree zee dah, mik euhl /; It. /mee kel ahn je law me rddee zee dah/, c1565 1609?, Italian painter. * * * orig. Michelangelo Merisi born 1571?,… …   Universalium

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