Celebrated for his trompe-l'oeil imitations of bas-reliefs, Piat Joseph Sauvage was born in Tournai. After training in Antwerp with the grisaille painter Martin Joseph Geeraerts (1707–1791), he exhibited in Paris in 1774 at the Académie de Saint-Luc. He was also admitted to the academies of Toulouse (1774) and Lille (1776), and in 1783 became a full member of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. Sauvage's painted reliefs—which imitate sculptures in marble, stone, terracotta, and bronze—were prized: he received commissions for the palaces of Versailles (1781–87), Bellevue (1785), Fontainebleau (1785–86), and Compiègne (1785–89). With the advent of the Revolution he proclaimed Republican sentiments and commanded a National Guard battalion in 1795. He exhibited regularly from 1781 onward and then returned to Tournai, as director of the local academy.
This Triumph of Bacchus
is one of at least three versions of the subject by or after Sauvage; the Metropolitan Museum also owns a larger, signed picture (07.225.272
). Here the composition has been simplified. Two figures have been omitted and there is less detail. The painting and its pendant (07.225.314b
) imitate bronze reliefs.
[Katharine Baetjer and Francesca Whitlum-Cooper 2010]