The Bacchanalia

This scene from mythology was frequent in Titian’s work and there are several magnificent examples of it here in the Prado. It was usually commissioned by monarchs, as it was a wonderful excuse to paint nudes that could be admired in the intimacy of their private chambers.

The Bacchanalia was a festival held in honour of Bacchus, the god of wine. Its various effects can be seen in this painting, from the figure sleeping it off at the back of the scene, to the youngsters dancing at the front. In the foreground we can see a naked woman lying on the ground. She is magnificent, just like all the nudes painted by Titian. It is hard to choose between his many nudes, but among visitors to the Prado, this one is probably the favourite.

Now look at the woman lying down in the centre of the scene, with an ample cleavage displaying purple flowers that are probably a reference to her name. She is assumed to be Titian’s mistress. She is holding a musical instrument and a score, on which you can read the words: “He who drinks and does not drink again, does not know what drinking is”. There is also an amusing figure of a child, raising his shirt to urinate. In the background a sailing ship can be seen, in which Bacchus himself is arriving to join the revels.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Catalina Serrano Romero
English translation (a) Thisbe Burns