The Drunken SiIenus: Design for the "Tazza Farnese"

Annibale Carracci Italian

Not on view

The debauched god Silenus of Greek mythology reclines in the center, already drunk and about to continue imbibing wine from the sack held by a horned satyr and a nude youth, while at either side putti climbing on the ornamental vines of the frame offer grapes to the group. This final, highly finished demonstration drawing is for a standing silver cup or salver (the "Tazza Farnese"), for Annibale's patron Cardinal Odoardo Farnese and is one of the only signed drawings by the artist. The "Tazza Farnese" is no longer extant. A silver plaque (Museo Nazionale, Naples), probably a copy rather than an original piece from the "Tazza" was rediscovered in 1955. It was apparently used for printmaking, and pulls from it were taken from a fairly early date onward. Two other studies by Annibale for this silver plaque have survived (British Museum, London; and Art Institute of Chicago [formerly in the Ellesmere collection]), and represent earlier stages of the design. With respect to the Naples plaque, the present drawing reveals only minor changes.

Annibale produced a number of preparatory sketches for the Farnese cup, including this one, in which the border is incised for transfer. The figural scene is not incised, and some changes are evident in the print that records the finished design: the position of the figures has been shifted, and the thyrsos, a staff carried by followers of Bacchus, has been replaced with the shepherd's crook that is an attribute of Pan.

The Drunken SiIenus: Design for the "Tazza Farnese", Annibale Carracci (Italian, Bologna 1560–1609 Rome), Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, over traces of black chalk, and stylus compass constructions; framing lines in pen and brown ink and black chalk or charcoal

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