Bacchanal with Silenus; a frieze composition with ten figures around Silenus who is carried by two satyrs
Andrea Mantegna (Italian, Isola di Carturo 1430/31–1506 Mantua)
Engraving with drypoint
Sheet: 12 in. × 17 1/4 in. (30.5 × 43.8 cm)
Anonymous Gift, 1929
Not on view
While the precise meaning of Mantegna's Bacchanals has eluded scholars, the most decisive event occurring in each is a coronation—an act that, by Mantegna's time, was often linked with the recognition of poetic gifts. In this engraving, the figure being crowned is clearly Silenus, the tutor of Bacchus, known for his wisdom as well as his drunkenness. In representing Silenus, any artist living in Mantua, the city of Virgil's birth, would have had in mind the poet's sixth Eclogue, in which Silenus is roused from drunken sleep by two satyrs and a nymph, bound with his own garlands, and forced to sing. His song of the creation and the ways of nature incited the fauns and wild beasts to move in a stately dance.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," January 11, 2010–April 11, 2010.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Power of Prints: The Legacy of William M. Ivins and A. Hyatt Mayor," January 26, 2016–May 22, 2016.
Bartsch XVII.240.20; Hind V.12.3; MMA (1992) cat. no. 75, p. 280; Borenius, p. 18, no.2; Hind 1910, p. 338, no. 2; Kristeller 1901, p. 393, no. 7; Tietze-Conrat, mantegna, p. 243, nos. 6, 7; Washington 1999, p. 186, no. 74.
Adam von Bartsch Le Peintre graveur. Vienna, 1803.
Arthur Mayger Hind Early Italian engraving: a critical catalogue with complete reproduction of all the prints described. London and New York, 1938-1948.