Bacchic Concert


Pietro Paolini ( Italian, 1603 - 1681 )

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General Description

Emerging out a dark, shallow space, Bacchus, the Greek god of wine, plays a pipe surrounded by a group of musicians. Crowned with grapevines, he appears not as a god but as a muscular young man: a common laborer, with sunburned neck and forearms from days working in the fields. His body, barely covered by loose drapery pooled just above his buttocks, almost seems to sway to the music. The sensuous play of shadows on Bacchus’s naked torso are indebted to Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro, the dramatic lighting effects the artist pioneered in the early 17th century. The exact meaning of this painting still eludes us. In the midst of this raucous scene of inebriated music-making, the figure to the left turns her back away from the viewer to read a sonnet by the Renaissance poet Petrarch, telling of the need to overcome the dangers of love and desire.

Excerpt from

Julien Domercq, Label text (1987.17), 2020

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