Object Image

A Bacchanalian Revel before a Term

In this wild party, men and women dance around a term - a carved bust of a bearded and horned man. This is traditionally identified as Pan, god of woods and fields, flocks and herds, although the statue could also be Priapus, god of gardens and fertility, who wears floral garlands and exposes his genitalia.

The grapes and dancing suggest that this is a Bacchic festival, like those held during ancient Roman times to encourage a successful harvest. In art and literature, partygoers at these events enjoy excessive drinking and fulfil their sexual desires, suggested here by the discarded vessels and exposed skin. The nymphs or frolicking female followers of the god Bacchus are accompanied by a lus...

Oil on canvas
98.0 x 142.8cm
Image and text © The National Gallery, London, 2023

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