Since antiquity, wine has been celebrated as a drink to enjoy as well as being widely represented in art. Whether as lavish bunches of grapes, fine glasses full to the brim, or as the god Bacchus and his entourage, the world of wine has been used either for decorative, allegorical, or moral purposes.
Bacchus was the fruit of one of Zeus’ many extra-marital affairs, this time with the beautiful Greek princess Semele. Spurred on by jealous Juno, who was disguised as her nurturer, Semele persuaded Zeus to reveal himself in the fullness of his divine nature, forcing him to reduce her to ashes in doing so, while she was already pregnant. Zeus saved his unborn son just in time by sewing the baby inside his leg to complete the gestation there. Once born, to continue to protect the baby from Juno’s vendetta, Mercury entrusted Bacchus to the wooden nymphs of Nysa, who hid him in their lairs and raised him with the help of the wise, and often drunk, Silenus. Made popular by Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Bacchus’ childhood on Mount Nysa was illustrated by several important artists over the centuries and in particular by Poussin, who represented it in several variations and Bacchanals.
Excess or liberation, pleasure or addiction; wine/Bacchus symbolises a human impulse that can be both tragic if not tamed, yet equally dangerous if repressed.
Whether or not you like to partake in a glass of “juice divine”, you can certainly enjoy a selection of wine and Bacchic related prints from Old Masters to Contemporary Art!