Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio (Milano 1571 - Porto Ercole 1610)
1598 c.
D32. CARAVAGGIO The Bacchus
Oil on canvas
95 x 85 cm
1890 n. 5312

The painting is part of Caravaggio's early series of half-length portraits which includes works such as “Boy with a Basket of Fruit” in the Galleria Borghese in Rome, “Boy Bitten by a Lizard” belonging to the Longhi Collection in Florence, and “Basket of Fruit” in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan. A leading figure in Rome in the 1610s of the artistic revolution which swept across Europe, in this painting Caravaggio demonstrates a masterful naturalistic portrayal of still life. His depiction of the basket of fruit and the cup of wine proffered by the god is surprising, with such elements interpreted by some critics as a Horatian invitation to frugality, conviviality and friendship. The sculpted figure of Bacchus with a stunned expression due to inebriation reproduces models of the classical art, in particular the portraits of Antinous, and is instilled with a languid sensuality. In the painting, eminent art critic Mina Gregori detected a certain vision of antiquity celebrating the freedom of senses, as well as a reference to the Bacchic costumes and initiation rites practiced in Rome. Discovered in the Uffizi’s deposits in 1913 and attributed to Caravaggio by art historian Roberto Longhi, the masterpiece belongs to the painter's early career in Rome, when he was under the patronage of Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte. Along with the “Medusa” (inv. 1890 n. 1351), it was donated by Cardinal del Monte to Ferdinando I de' Medici on the occasion of his son Cosimo II’s wedding in 1608.