5. Dionysus Through The Ages: The Dawning of the Twentieth Century and Modern Expression

The west moved beyond the Neo-Classical and Romantic imagery during the dawning of the twentieth century. This era brought dynamic changes to the art world. The contraints of the rigid academy structure broke down and artists freely expressed new visons of their interest in the Dionysus/Bacchus imagery. In many cases the concept of the Bacchanal or celebration of the rites of Dionysus are portrayed rather than depicting the actual god in human form. The work crosses many stylistic genres and some of the great innovators of the modern art world; including Cezanne, Dali, and Picasso, are represented here.

Bacchanale, Alma Tadema, 1871

Bacchanale, Alma Tadema, 1871

The Youth of Bacchus, William Bouguereau, 1884, 610cm X 331cm, Private Collection

The Youth of Bacchus, William Bouguereau, 1884, 610cm X 331cm, Private Collection

A Dedication to Bacchus, Sir Laurence Alma Tadema 1889, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany, 30" X70"

A Dedication to Bacchus, Sir Laurence Alma Tadema 1889, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany, 30″ X70″

The Infant Bacchus, John LaFarge, 1882, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Stained Glass, 89"X 45"

The Infant Bacchus, John LaFarge, 1882, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Stained Glass, 89″X 45″

Bacchanalia, The Battle of Love, Paul Cezanne, 1880, Private Collection

Bacchanalia, The Battle of Love, Paul Cezanne, 1880, Private Collection

Bacchus Dance, Andre Derain, 1906, Private Collection

Bacchus Dance, Andre Derain, 1906, Private Collection

Silenus Dancing in Company, Pablo Picasso 1933

Silenus Dancing in Company, Pablo Picasso 1933

Bacchanale, Andre Derain, 1946,  17"X 25", Private Collection

Bacchanale, Andre Derain, 1946, 17″X 25″, Private Collection

Dionysus Spitting the Complete Image of Cadaques on the Tip if the Tongue of a Three Storied Gaudian Woman, Salvadore Dali, 1958, Private Collection

Dionysus Spitting the Complete Image of Cadaques on the Tip if the Tongue of a Three Storied Gaudian Woman, Salvadore Dali, 1958, Private Collection

Bacchus 69, Purple and Green, Elaine DeKooning 1982

Bacchus 69, Purple and Green, Elaine DeKooning 1982

The Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne in Covent Gardens, Peregine Roskilly, Artists Collection

The Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne in Covent Gardens, Peregine Roskilly, Artists Collection

Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art Throughout the Ages. Boston:Wadworth, Centage Learning 2010

The Athenaeum. Digital image. The Athenaeum. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May

2013.WikiPaintings.org – the Encyclopedia of Painting. Digital image. WikiPaintings.org – the Encyclopedia of Painting. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2013

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4. Dionysus Through the Ages: Neo-Classicism and Romanticism

This era saw the dawning of the Enlightenment that radically changed the political, economic and religious landscape of the western world. The rapid change from an agrarian society to an industrialized society created new technology and invention that drove the economy. Simultaneously, revolution changed the political landscape reducing the power of monarchs and religious institutions. The expanding economy created more wealth for merchants, bankers and industrialists thereby expanding the market available to artists of the era. Instead of relying on commissions from emperors and clergy, artists could find patrons from the wealthy upper class.

The Enlightenment also brought a revival of interest in ancient Greek and Roman art, architecture and literature. The Neoclassicism movement revived interest in the mythology of the era and the imagery of Dionysus/Bacchus was a popular theme. The paintings that follow are representative of the stylistic heritage of the Renaissance era paintings.

The evolution from Neoclassicism to Romanticism evolved in the early 19th century. The expression of emotion and imagination were the primary objectives of this movement. Narratives of exotic locations and mythologies were popular subjects.

Meeting of Bacchus and Ariadne, Sebastion Ricci, 1713, National Gallery of London, 30" X 25"

Meeting of Bacchus and Ariadne, Sebastion Ricci, 1713, National Gallery of London, 30″ X 25″

Bacchus and Ariadne, Gustavus Hessius, 1720, Detroit Institute of the Arts, 24" X 32"

Bacchus and Ariadne, Gustavus Hessius, 1720, Detroit Institute of the Arts, 24″ X 32″

Bacchus Discovering Sleeping Adriadne on Naxos, Angelica Kauffman, 1764, Vorartberg fMuseum, Bregenz

Bacchus Discovering Sleeping Ariadne on Naxos, Angelica Kauffman, 1764, Vorartberg fMuseum, Bregenz

Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus on Naxos, 1774, Angelica Kauffman, Houston Museum of Fine Arts

Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus on Naxos, 1774, Angelica Kauffman, Houston Museum of Fine Arts

Bacchus Nursed by the  Nymphs of Nyssa, William Dyce, 1827, Aberdeen Art Gallery, UK

Bacchus Nursed by the Nymphs of Nyssa, William Dyce, 1827, Aberdeen Art Gallery, UK

Bacchante with Panther, John-Baptiste-Camille Corot, 1860, Shelburne Museum, United States

Bacchante with Panther, John-Baptiste-Camille Corot, 1860, Shelburne Museum, United States

Drunken Bacchus and Cupid, Jean-Leon Gerome, 1850, Musee des Beaux Arts, Bordeaux, France, 59" X 45"

Drunken Bacchus and Cupid, Jean-Leon Gerome, 1850, Musee des Beaux Arts, Bordeaux, France, 59″ X 45″

ANacreon, Bacchus and Amor, Jean-Leone Gerome, 1848, Musee des Augustines, France 53" X 83"

ANacreon, Bacchus and Amor, Jean-Leone Gerome, 1848, Musee des Augustines, France 53″ X 83″

Autumn, Bacchus and Ariadne, Eugene Delacroix, 1856-1863, Mueo de Arte de San Paulo, Brazil, 78"X 65"

Autumn, Bacchus and Ariadne, Eugene Delacroix, 1856-1863, Mueo de Arte de San Paulo, Brazil, 78″X 65″

Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art Throughout the Ages. Boston:Wadworth, Centage Learning 2010

The Athenaeum. Digital image. The Athenaeum. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May

2013.WikiPaintings.org – the Encyclopedia of Painting. Digital image. WikiPaintings.org – the Encyclopedia of Painting. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2013

3. Dionysus Through The Ages: Baroque

Caravaggio created some of the most striking paintings of the Renaissance. Here is Bacchus as a young man. The imagery shows the flushed cheeks of the sensual young man who tempts the viewer with wine and beautiful fruits. The grape leaves on his head make a striking crown for the young Bacchus in his lounging seductive pose.

Bacchus, Caravaggio, 1597, Galleria defli Uffizi, Italy 37"X39"

Bacchus, Caravaggio, 1597, Galleria defli Uffizi, Italy 37″X39″

The symbolism here is decidedly different than the earlier pose as Caravaggio poses in the costume of Bacchus. His face appears drawn and sickly, the rosy seductiveness of the earlier portrayal is replaced with the image of an older man who has been dissipated from the lifestyle represented by Bacchus.

Self Portrait as Bacchus, Caravaggio, 1593, Galleria Borghese, Italy 26"X20"

Self Portrait as Bacchus, Caravaggio, 1593, Galleria Borghese, Italy 26″X20″

During the same era, we see the paintings of Nicholas Poussin of France creating mythological themed paintings.  His work was modeled after Titian and Raphael and was based on his principle of classical painting based on the “grand manner” of painting that included subject matter, thought, structure and style.  When all of these elements are integrated the result is a beautiful painting.  Arrangement, measure, and form were the elements he noted in his Treatise on Painting written in the 17th Century.

The Nurture of Bacchus, NIcholaus Poussin, 1630, Musee du Louvre, 38"X54'

The Nurture of Bacchus, NIcholaus Poussin, 1630, Musee du Louvre, 38″X54″

The French monarchy embraced classicism and many of these depictions of Dionysus would adorn the salons of Louis XIV.  Cardinal Richelieu ordered Poussin to leave Rome and become a royal court painter.  The Cardinal commissioned a number of Bacchanal scenes for his private residences.

Midas and Bacchus, Nicholaus Poussin, 1629, Alte Pinakothek, Germany 39"X51"

Midas and Bacchus, Nicholaus Poussin, 1629, Alte Pinakothek, Germany 39″X51″

Poussin was a favored painter for these Bacchanal scenes.

Nicholaus Poussin, The Birth of Bacchus, 1657, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 122cm X 179"

Nicholaus Poussin, The Birth of Bacchus, 1657, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 122cm X 179cm

As in Italy, this genre of paintings was not for the viewing public.  They decorated fabulous palaces of the French nobility.

Nicholas Poussin, The Triumphe of Bacchus, 1635, Nelson Atkins Museum Kansas City

Nicholas Poussin, The Triumphe of Bacchus, 1635, Nelson Atkins Museum Kansas City

Nicholas Poussin, Nymph Riding a Goat, 1631, The Hermatage Museum Russia

Nicholas Poussin, Nymph Riding a Goat, 1631, The Hermitage Museum Russia

Some of the paintings have a darker side; more in line with the Pagan rituals of the Dionysus rites of Roman times.  Themes of wontoness, rape and bestiality are suggested in these paintings. They are more graphic that the Dionysus images that only imply the sexuality inherent in the work.

Nicholas Poussin, Baccanal of Putti, 1626, National Gallery of Antica 29"x 33"

Nicholas Poussin, Bacchanal of Putti, 1626, National Gallery of Antica 29″x 33″

The Bacchanal of the Putti is one of the more graphic scenes that would lead a modern viewer to question the patron’s interest in pedophilia.  Cardinal Chigi of Italy commissioned these two images for his private villa.

Nicholas Poussin, Childrens Baccanale, 1626, National Gallery of Art Antica 29"X33

Nicholas Poussin, Childrens Baccanale, 1626, National Gallery of Art Antica 29″X 33″

Peter Paul Reubens also created imagery that appears to mock the idealized portraitures of Dionysus.  Instead he portrays the god as ravaged by the evils of his licentious ways.  He is fat and dissipated.  One wonders if this was a snide portrayal of members of the nobility who lived their lives pursueing pleasures.

Peter Paul Reubens, Bacchus and Satyrs, 1616, Louvre, Paris, 15"x11"

Peter Paul Reubens, Bacchus and Satyrs, 1616, Louvre, Paris, 15″x11″

Peter Paul Reubens, Bacchus, 1638, State Hermitage Museum, Russia, 75"x 63"

Peter Paul Reubens, Bacchus, 1638, State Hermitage Museum, Russia, 75″x 63″

The god is drunken and slovenly and is held up by his entourage of beastly followers.

Peter Paul Reubens, Drunken Bacchus with Faun and Satyr, 1639, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Peter Paul Reubens, Drunken Bacchus with Faun and Satyr, 1639, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Another Baroque artist who captured the image of Dionysus is Guido Reni of Bologna.  He was influenced by Carracci and Raphael.  His is famous for his immense frescoes in the ceiling of  the Palazzo Farnese in Rome.  Owned by Cardinal Odoardo Farnese, the work was to celebrate the wedding  of his brother.  The work is known as the Loves of the Gods  and represents earthly and divine love in classical mythology.

Guido Reni, bAcchus and Ariadne, 1621, Los Angeles  Museum of Art

Guido Reni, Bacchus and Ariadne, 1621, Los Angeles Museum of Art

Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art Throughout the Ages. Boston:Wadworth, Centage Learning 2010

The Athenaeum. Digital image. The Athenaeum. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May

The National Gallery, London: Western European Painting 1250–1900. Digital image. The National Gallery, London: Western European Painting 1250–1900. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2013

2013.WikiPaintings.org – the Encyclopedia of Painting. Digital image. WikiPaintings.org – the Encyclopedia of Painting. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2013

Clark, T. J. (2005). Looking at the Ceiling. [Review of the book The Mirror of the Gods: Classical Mythology in Renaissance Art.] London Review of Books, 27(18), 7-9. Retrieved from http://www.lrb.co.uk/v27/n18/tj-clark/looking-at-the-ceiling

2. Dionysus Through the Ages: The Renaissance Era

Renaissance artists had two major patrons, the church and the wealthy noble class.  Mythological images were extremely popular for Renaissance princes and nobles as decorations for their villas and private rooms. In looking at classical mythological images of the Greeks and Romans for inspiration, the imagery produced erotic and fantastical scenes during a time when Christian ideology barely recognized the spectrum of human desires. These images were not found in public places but intended for private viewing by elite patrons.

Dionysus was a favorite subject for artists catering to this market.  Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese provided their patrons with images found in the poetry of the Greek and Roman era.  The following images are examples of the genre that continues beyond the Renaissance era to modern times.

Bacchus, Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1497, Private Collection 80".

Bacchus, Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1497, Private Collection 80″

This statue of Bacchus by Michelangelo was commissioned for a cardinal but ended up in the garden of a wealthy banker after it was rejected.  Dionysus appears staggering and unbalanced, presumably due to his drinking wine.  He has a softness of body that suggests an androgynous quality.

St John in The Wilderness (Bacchus)Leonardo daVinci, 1510. Louvre, Paris 45"X70"

St John in The Wilderness (Bacchus)Leonardo daVinci, 1510. Louvre, Paris 45″X70″

While titled St. John in the Wilderness, this painting crosses the line into mythological imagery. We see the symbols of Dionysus as a beautiful male with an unusually seductive pose not normally seen for a saintly Christian figure. The reference to the panther is seen in the loin cloth and the staff alludes to the Thyrsus symbolism

The Marriage of Bacchus and Ariadne, Cima de Conegliano, 1505, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan,28cmX70cm

The Marriage of Bacchus and Adriane, Cima de Conegliano, 1505, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan,28cmX70cm

This painting was probably commissioned as a wedding present and represents the wealthy noble class practice of offering expensive gifts.

Meeting of Bacchus and Ariadne, 1522, Palazzo Ducale, Ferrara, Italy 5'9"X6'3"

Meeting of Bacchus and Ariadne,Titian, 1522, Palazzo Ducale, Ferrara, Italy 5’9″X6’3″

The story of Dionysus and Ariadne is a popular myth of the era.  It is a story of the betrayal of Princess Ariadne, who helps her lover Theseus kill the Minotaur at the palace of Knosses.  Theseus repays her sacrifice by abandoning her on the Greek isle of Naxos.  Dionysus meets her on the island and falls instantly in love with her and proposes marriage.  Her wedding gift is the sky and she is rewarded by becoming an immortal constellation in the heavens.

Titian captures the moment when Dionysus sees the princess and is overcome with emotion.  His entourage of satyrs and nymphs are in the foreground but the action is between Ariadne and Dionysus.  Titian is celebrated for his masterful color and light renderings, the rich and luminous colors add to the sensual imagery.

Perhaps it can also be seen as a warning to women and the perils of wine.  The dark side of the Dionysus myth is represented with savage beasts, snake encircled satyrs, drunken revelers and a sense of chaos and danger to follow as Ariadne faces a future with Dionysus.

Bacchus and Ceres, Paolo Veronese, 1560, Villa Barbaro, Italy

Bacchus and Ceres, Paolo Veronese, 1560, Villa Barbaro, Italy

Bacchus and Ceres, Paolo Veronese, 1560, Villa Barbaro, Italy

Bacchus and Ceres, Paolo Veronese, 1560, Villa Barbaro, Italy

These frescos by Paolo Veronese decorated the Barbaro family villa located near Venice. Daniele Barbaro was the noble patriarch of Aquileia and ambassador to Queen Elizabeth I of England, and his brother, Marcantonio, an ambassador to King Charles IX of France. The wealthy aristocrats of the era hired the elite artists and architects to create luxurious homes and gardens.

Bacchus and Ariadne, Tintoretto, 1578, Palazzo Ducale, Italy

Bacchus and Ariadne, Tintoretto, 1578, Palazzo Ducale, Italy


This painting by Tintoretto at the Palazzo Ducale illustrates another rendering of the story in the Mannerist style of the late Renaissance. Using glowing Venetian colors and dramatic visual movement Tintoretto’s creates a complex energized scene.

 

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Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art Throughout the Ages. Boston:Wadworth, Centage Learning 2010

The Athenaeum. Digital image. The Athenaeum. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May

The National Gallery, London: Western European Painting 1250–1900. Digital image. The National Gallery, London: Western European Painting 1250–1900. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2013

2013.WikiPaintings.org – the Encyclopedia of Painting. Digital image. WikiPaintings.org – the Encyclopedia of Painting. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2013

Clark, T. J. (2005). Looking at the Ceiling. [Review of the book The Mirror of the Gods: Classical Mythology in Renaissance Art.] London Review of Books, 27(18), 7-9. Retrieved from http://www.lrb.co.uk/v27/n18/tj-clark/looking-at-the-ceiling

Dionysus: Images Through the Ages

The ancient mythological god Dionysus has a unique role in the history of art. The imagery is complex and it evolves over the centuries to reflect the artistic expression of the times. We will explore the image of Dionysus through the ages beginning with early ancient pagan images and ending with contemporary interpretations. It is remarkable to see the vast number of the great artists of western art  have interpreted the imagery of Dionysus.

The imagery is transcends the centuries: ancient Greek marble statues ,sculpture by Michelangelo and more recent works by MacMonnies. From ancient mosaics to paintings by Titian, Raphael, Durer, Rubens, Caravaggio, Velaquez, Delacroix, Picasso and Dali we see the enduring imagery.  Painted on ancient krators,floor mosaics, Renaissance frescos and immortalized in stained glass, the lure of the legend of Dionysus continues to capture artist’s imagination.

Dionysus is one of the twelve Olympians. He was the youngest deity and the only Olympian to have a mortal mother. Fathered by Zeus and the mortal Persephone, his symbols include the grapevine, fig, ivy and thyrsus, or fennel stalk. Animal associations are the bull, serpent, leopard, and panther. In Roman mythology he takes the name Bacchus and his attibutes are essentially the same.

hercules_and_Dionysus_Mosaic

Hercules and Dionysus Mosaic

This mosaic shows Dionysus as the God of Wine, and illustrates his association with earthly pleasures including music, dance, theatre, sexuality and fertility. The myths of Dionysus are complex and the stories of his birth, rebirth, childhood, adolescence and associations with other gods have many symbolic associations to study.

Phiale Painter, Hermes Bringing the Infant Dionysus to Papposilenos, 440-435 BCE Musei Vaticani, Rome

Phiale Painter, Hermes Bringing the Infant Dionysus to Papposilenos, 440-435 BCE Musei Vaticani, Rome

This Athenian white ground krater from Vulci Italy illustrates  the story of the infant Dionysus traveling with his half brother  Hermes to be protected by the satyrs and nymphs in Nysa.  According to legend Zeus sent the child away to protect him from the wrath of his wife Hera. The krater is thought to be the work of Phiale Painter who brought subtle detail and coloration to his work.

200px-Hermes_di_Prassitele,_at_Olimpia,_front

Praxiteles. 340 BCE, Hermes and the Infant Dionysos, Archaeological Museum Olympia

Perhaps one of the most famous representations of Dionysus is the statue attributed to the sculptor Praxitele. This sculpture of  Hermes, the son of Zeus, and the infant Dionysus. Found in the Temple of Hera at Olympia, the statue was believed to have been carved around 340 BCE. The statue has the sinuous S curve, smooth modeling and idealized beauty representative of the era. There is a delicacy and warmth of emotion that sets Praxiteles work apart from earlier sculptors of the Classical era.

Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art though the Ages. Boston:Wadsworth Centage Learning 2010