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Season for Bacchus and Wine

Diego Velázquez, The Triumph of Bacchus or Los borrachos, 1629, Mudeo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.


Season for Bacchus and Wine

My grandpa grows vines in his little garden so I have a chance to see them grow and mature. And since September starts the season of maturing vines, I thought it would be good to pay tribute to their patron: god Dionysus/ Bacchus.

Jupiter’s Affair and ‘Pregnancy’

Michelangelo, Bacchus, 1497, Bargello (Palazzo del Popolo), Florence, Italy.

Bacchus was Jupiter’s misbegotten son from his affair with a mortal woman Semele. Jupiter’s wife quickly learnt of her husband’s infidelity and decided to take revenge on the poor woman. As mortals couldn’t see gods in their true form, she made Semele see Jupiter’s divinity. Poor Semele died instantly burning up! Jupiter, however, saved his son, who was still in Semele’s womb, by sewing him under the skin of his thigh.

Bacchus’s Love

Guido Reni, Bacchus and Ariadne, 1621, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, CA, US.

Bacchus is often portrayed in company of Ariadne, a mythically beautiful woman with whom the young god fell in love at first sight. The story of their love is described by Ovid and Catullus, who tell that Ariadne, who was a Cretan princess, was abandoned on the Greek island of Naxos by the hero Theseus (he was very very ungrateful, since Ariadne helped him get through the labyrinth of Minotaur). Fortunately Bacchus saw her and lept from his chariot to save her.

A Great Farmer

Guido Reni, The Boy Bacchus, 1620, Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy.

Not only is Bacchus the patron of wine-making but also of agriculture in general, as he was the one to teach people how to grow vines. According to mythology, he spent his childhood with Silenus, a great wine amateur. Having completed his training, Bacchus decided to travel the world and teach until he reached Olympus.

Silenus and Midas

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Between Venus and Bacchus, 1882, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD, US.

There is a story in which one day Silenus goes missing and Bacchus suspects that his teacher strayed somewhere in his drunken trance. He went searching for him but it was the king Midas, who had found him and brought back to the young god. Out of gratitude, Bacchus offered Midas a gift of any power he wanted. Midas asked to be able to turn everything into gold with his touch… And we all know how this one ends…

A Gift for Ariadne

Maurice Denis, Bacchus and Ariadne, 1907, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

To honour his love, Bacchus once threw Ariadne’s crown into the air, creating this way the constellation Corona Borealis. They had several children together, among them famous Priapus, Phthonus and Deianira.

Elaine de Kooning, Bacchus #3, 1978, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., US.

Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.


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