Young Bacchus

Giovanni Mannozzi, known as Giovanni da San Giovanni (San Giovanni Valdarno 1592 – Florence 1636) (attr.)
1630-1640 c.
Oil on canvas
94 x 73 cm
Inv. 1890 n. 5171

In the centre of the painting is a red-haired boy lifting up a bottle full of wine, probably just filled up from the barrel he is sitting on. His dopey grin and blushed cheeks evidently show signs of intoxication. The subject of the canvas refers to Bacchus, the god of wine and festivities. His realistic face features as well as his garments hint that the boy was painted probably after a real-life model, maybe a court jester. It is not entirely clear who painted the canvas but the playful and light ambiance is very similar to the ones featured by a specific circle of artists working in Florence in the 17th century. Among them are Baccio del Bianco, Pandolfo Sacchi or, above all, Giovanni da San Giovanni, who all worked together at the Casa Buonarroti and the Villa di Mezzomonte for Cardinal Giovan Carlo de’ Medici. It seems that the canvas was painted by Giovanni da San Giovanni. According to the grotesque taste typical of this genre, this kind of paintings also used to represent proverbs or popular sayings as well as allegories of the five senses (in this case, the sense of Taste). Moreover, other very similar works, like the ones at the Villa di Mezzomonte, hint that in those artists’ workshops there used to be several models their pupils could draw from, which provided a basic collection of examples to be replicated in their works.