Infant Bacchus with Grapes

Joseph Gott British

Not on view

Bacchus, the classical god of wine, is depicted as a naked infant reclining upon a goatskin pelt. He gazes wide-eyed at the bunch of grapes that he holds above his mouth while wriggling his pudgy body in delight. As his dimpled hands squeeze the fruit, he parts his lips in a gentle smile anticipating its heady liquor. The sculpture is modeled with economical refinement. The figure’s forms are simple, the facial features regular, and the blank eyes stylized according to classical norms. Gott emphasizes the amplitude of Bacchus’s body, contrasting its fat-creased smoothness with the complex textures of the infant’s springy ringlets and the goatskin’s shaggy hair.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Joseph Gott ranked among Great Britain’s foremost Neoclassical sculptors. A precocious talent, Gott was highly regarded by the painter Thomas Lawrence who sponsored his first trip to Rome in 1822. The sculptor remained in the Eternal City for almost forty years, running a successful workshop that supplied marble and terracotta sculptures to English clients. Gott made regular trips to his native land, exhibiting at the Royal Academy and keeping in contact with the Yorkshire industrialists who were his principle patrons. The Infant Bacchus with Grapes of 1824 typifies the highly personal style that Gott developed in his youth and maintained with little variation until the end of his life.

Gott was among the first British sculptors to adapt the classical tradition to the sensibilities of the emerging class of powerful industrialists who lived in manufacturing cities far from London and whose taste tended toward easily apprehended, engaging domestic sculptures rather than grandly scaled antiquarian statements. His subjects – especially of children and dogs for which he was most famous – appealed to family audiences with varied levels of knowledge. For those unfamiliar with classical myth, his Bacchus conveys the mischievous playfulness of all contented babies. Others, recognizing Bacchus as a god by his attributes of grapes and goatskin pelt, could relish the conceit of an infant divinity who miraculously transforms fruit into wine by smashing it in his plump hands

Infant Bacchus with Grapes, Joseph Gott (British, Leeds 1786 – 1860 Rome), Terracotta; marble, British

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.