The Feast of Bacchus by Diego Velazquez is an oil painting that shows an unexpected scene of inebriated men caressing, fighting, and yelling at each other. Instead of depicting a religious or mythological scene of Bacchus, this painting shows bacchanalian revelers who have been indulging in the pleasures of wine. The allegory behind the painting implies the human inclination to engage in drunkenness when reward increases.
The figures in the painting are characterized through a series of differently posed and expressive figures dispersed in the pictorial space. All attention appears to be focused on two prominent men seated at the foreground who are both reaching out for a glass being offered by another individual -representing Bacchus’ rewarding of mankind with wine. In the background meanwhile stands a figure that strikes an enigmatic presence -the dwarf Sebastian de Morra – one with some secret symbolism ahead of his time.
In this seemingly frantic and jovial scene, viewers can observe Velazquez’ expert execution of Baroque elements throughout: vibrant chiaroscuro creates depth, as do elements such as ornamental garments and facial expressions that add theatricality to motionless figures. Most notably however is his expressiveness which communicates man’s enthusiasm for unrestrained pleasure shown here through not just depiction but allegory; one that still resonates in modern society. Powerful too is his portrayal of court life’s dwarf Sebastian de Morra – an extraordinary figure co-opted into essentially a more sinister role – used by kings to demonstrate absolute power over futile subjects.