La jeunesse de Bacchus. (1884)

William Bouguereau.
La Jeunesse de Bacchus. (1884)

La Jeunesse de Bacchus. The youth of Bacchus.

This large painting by William Bouguereau portrays Bacchus the god of the grape harvest, winemaking, wine, and the ritual of madness merry making and ecstasy amidst a wild, dancing crowd of Nymphs, Satyrs, Cherubs and musicians.

Within the picture there a many characters some of which appear familiar in other works. The centre of the work shows a group of characters dancing, one of which by the way she is dressed appears to be Psyché who is dancing with her arms aloft while holding the hands of the male behind. She looks as if she is glancing towards a young female in a light blue tunic at the back of the painting who is holding a wine goblet in her right hand and a bunch of grapes in her left hand. The girl seems to be reciprocating her glances by staring back in the direction of Psyché with a longing playful look in her eyes.

At the front of the painting a nymph wearing a Leopard skin is happily dancing while holding the hand of a bacchante who presumably has collapsed on the floor in a drunken stupor . She is sprawled out on the floor with her Thyrsus (A giant fennel staff decorated with vines and a pine cone) under her. To the right of the nymph is a young male with a cherub perched upon his shoulders waving a tambourine.

Psyché glancing back at her admirer.

Psyché glancing back at her admirer.

To the right of him two cherubs one of which is holding a triangle are dancing with another bacchante who is wearing a white tunic. She is holding her thyrsus in her right hand and is staring at the cupid to her left, perhaps it is Eros himself.

Two cherubs, or perhaps Eros himself dances gaily with bacchante.

Two cherubs, or perhaps Eros himself dances gaily with bacchante.

A donkey struggles to carry an overweight and very drunk looking Bacchus.

Behind her the female in the dark blue tunic is dancing and staring into space while playing what appear to be castanet's made from shells. To the right of the painting an athletic tall looking, naked male stands facing the trees to his left at the back of the painting. He has his arms raised showing some definition on his back and shoulders and he is playing the cymbals. To his right there are two centaurs one of which is playing dual pan pipes while the other appears to be looking back into the painting toward the merriment. He is holding something in his raised hands of which it is hard to see but could possibly be bagpipes, a much loved instrument along with pan pipes, cymbals, tambourines and castanets of the Satyrs. To the back on the left hand side of the painting Bacchus has been portrayed on the back of a rather tired looking donkey that struggles to carry the overweight and very drunk looking Bacchus. He is wearing a garland on his head and has a vine which has been fashioned into a thong like covering over his genital area. Bacchus has obviously had his fill and is portrayed holding an empty wine goblet or chalice in his right hand. Two Satyrs are trying to steady him and appear to be struggling to support him and keep him on his mount and perhaps ease the burden for the donkey . To his left a partially naked girl holds a tambourine filled with grapes. She is smiling and staring across the scene in the direction of the male cymbalist, while in front of her a naked young male dances and appears to be trying to catch her eye.

In all this painting buy William Bouguereau depicts a scene of drunken debauchery, abandonment and merriment, typical of Bacchus and the Satyrs.

The above account is my interpretation of the work and should in no way be taken as fact.