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Sculpture of Bacchus and Amor

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Sculpture of Bacchus and Cupid
Sculpture of Bacchus and Amor

Sculpture from the 2nd century CE, probably a Roman copy of an older Greek work. Exact origin unknown. The property is part of the collection of the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.

At first, the whole group can arouse mixed feelings and unhealthy associations. Indeed – from our perspective, a naked young adult with a much younger and also naked boy does not look good. However, when we break away from our cultural and moral conditions for a moment, and adopt the cultural code of the ancient Greeks and Romans, we discover something completely different. The man on the left is Bachus / Dionysus, as evidenced by a bunch of grapes and a cup in his right hand. The boy is Amor / Eros. Behind him are clearly visible wings. Unfortunately, the items Amor held in his hands did not survive, but it can be assumed that they were arrows – a characteristic attribute of this idol.

When we realize who the sculpture depicts, it turns out that its pronunciation is completely different from the one that probably came to our mind first.

Bacchus is a god of fun, fertility, wild nature, vine and wine and everything related to wine. Here, Bacchus raises a bunch of grapes and embraces Amor’s left arm. So we are not looking at the naked boy portrayed as a victim used by an adult man for lustful and perverse purposes. On the contrary – in mythology Amor / Eros was rather a mischief who was able to influence their fate with his arrows directed at both people and gods. It is hard to resist the impression that the gods depicted in this sculpture are essentially two accomplices – the personification of fun and alcoholic intoxication goes hand in hand with love – including (and maybe above all!) The physical. Here Amor looks clearly at Bacchus, and his gaze is questioning. “How much longer?” he seems to be talking as if waiting for the wine to do its job and Amor will finally be able to act. Bacchus’ attitude is quite patronizing – he embraces Amor as if to show: “Wait for your turn …”. Nonchalant leaning on one leg and Bacchus bent hip expose confidence. Bacchus knows that wine will weaken the resistance of the object in which Amor will aim his arrows.

The sculpture is therefore far from the perversion we would be willing to attribute to it in the first impulse. On the contrary – the author’s message is rather funny – the sculptor winks clearly at the viewer.

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