Anacreon, Bacchus and Love
In 1848, at the age of twenty four, crowned with the success of Young Greeks Attending a Cockfight (1846, musée d'Orsay), Gérôme reiterates and exhibits The Virgin, The Infant Jesus and St. John at the Salon, as well as an ambitious work, in the format of historical painting and with a subject with no trace of triviality, Anacreon, Bacchus and Love.
Anacreon, author of The Anacreontic Odes – odes in praise of wine, love and nature – is one of the first famous lyrical poets of Greece. During the second half of the 19th century, many translations of this dionysian body of work, infused with reverie and melancholy, came out in France. Anne-Louis Girodet published one of these in 1825, which she illustrated herself.
Despite its rarity, this subject is meant as a decisive stage in Gérôme’s consolidation of the neo-Greek aesthetic he has been heralding since 1846.
Against a background of bacchanalian revelry, Anacreon, standing in the centre, crowned with myth, plays a seven-stringed lyre. A young bacchante accompanies the poet on her flute while Bacchus and Love as children represent Anacreon’s hedonism.
A dusk scene in an Antique landscape with many accurate archeological references, this canvas is sent to the Toulousan museum by the government in 1848.