Bacchanal with Silenus (c.1481) by Albrecht Durer

Bacchanal with Silenus - Albrecht Durer - c.1481

Artwork Information

TitleBacchanal with Silenus
ArtistAlbrecht Durer
Art MovementNorthern Renaissance

About Bacchanal with Silenus

The artwork “Bacchanal with Silenus” is attributed to Albrecht Dürer, a renowned artist of the Northern Renaissance, and is believed to have been created around 1505 rather than circa 1481, as Dürer was born in 1471. The piece falls under the genre of mythological painting and depicts a scene related to classical mythology.

In this intricate monochrome artwork, we see a group of figures engaged in what appears to be a lively and possibly inebriated procession. At the center is an elderly, overweight man with a balding head and a prominent belly, presumably representing Silenus, a companion and tutor to the wine god Dionysus. Silenus is often depicted in mythology as intoxicated and riding on a donkey, which seems to be referenced here with his unstable seat on another figure’s back.

Around Silenus, there are several other characters who are actively participating in the bacchanal, indicative of a festive celebration devoted to Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstasy. To the left is a muscular figure who seems to be dancing or moving energetically; his dynamic posture contrasts with the seated Silenus. Other figures include a man playing a flute and another sporting a wreath, which is typical of such mythological revelries. Some characters offer support to Silenus, ensuring he does not fall, while a figure to the left appears to be interacting with an animal, possibly a goat, adding to the wild and carefree nature of the scene.

The attention to detail is meticulous, from the individual leaves and grapes in the grapevines above the group to the expressions and muscles of the figures. This detailed and high-quality rendering suggests a careful study of human anatomy and a masterful command of the etching technique. The composition skillfully captures the chaotic yet harmonic essence of a bacchanal, with each figure contributing to the overall sense of merriment and excess.

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