Bacchic Concert


Pietro Paolini ( Italian, 1603 - 1681 )

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General Description

Pietro Paolini depicts a nocturnal concert featuring Bacchus, the Greek god of wine, surrounded by an ensemble of enigmatic musicians. Crowned with grape leaves and fruit, Bacchus appears not as a god but as a muscular young man, a common laborer whose neck and arms are sunburned. His half-nude body is oddly isolated by the drapery pooled around his hips and buttocks. This unusual truncation reinforces Paolini's quotation of the Belvedere Torso (Vatican Museums, Rome), one of the most famous fragments of classical sculpture and a reference point for artists since at least the early 16th century. The narrative of the painting is difficult to decipher. The musician at far left studies a sonnet by Petrarch, while at right a rustic trio clusters around a woman strumming a lute. In 17th-century Rome, grand weddings frequently included performances by musicians clad as the god of wine and his followers, a tradition to which Paolini may be alluding in this painting.

Excerpt from

Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Bacchic Concert," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 150.

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