top of page

Iconography of drunkenness

Mystical drunkennesse with Caravaggio

The Bacchus of Caravaggio shows a great mastery of composition and light. But not only, because he also slipped mysterious elements which question the somewhat drowsy look of this character disguised as a pagan god.

Bacchus is the god of wine, drunkenness, spillovers (especially sexual), as well as nature. It is represented here with its attributes: the grape and the peg (shallow cut).

We can also note that Caravaggio knew the use of the representation of tilted wine. Indeed, this special iconography which seeks to make one feel a certain notion of drunkenness is visible with the non-horizontal wine in the cup held in hand and also in the carafe on the table.

Another interesting detail: in the carafe we can see the painter's reflection (1) on the surface of the wine. Caravaggio slipped his self-portrait there subliminally, onto the wine, as if to add thickness to the mystery of the mystical intoxication suggested in this scene.

And what about the gesture of his companion who poses for him, with his index ostensibly sunk into a knot of black velvet?

Caravage - Bacchus - 1590_ - Uffizi - ph

Caravage - Bacchus - 1590? - Uffizi - Photo Guy Mauchamp

The surface of the wine in the hook is slightly inclined by only one degree while in the carafe the wine is clearly inclined at 4 °. I'm talking about the degrees of tilt angle and not the alcohol level in the wine, you understood ;-)


Visual demonstration with a string showing the inclination of the wine in front of the Bacchus of Caravaggio at the Uffizi Florence .

Caravaggio, Bacchus, wine tilted in the glass

Caravaggio - Bacchus - The wine tilted in the coat hook and in the carafe.

But let's check if these inclinations correspond to a composition desired by the master of chiaroscuro.

Below, the line of sight of the left eye is wedged between the golden harmonic grid (mark in orange yellow) and the grid of the earth square (mark in green). This look is confirmed with a marker with the 9 ° line of sight (in blue) which points to the end of a vine branch. Another 18 ° line of sight (in dark blue) is wedged at the edge of the format on the inclined line of the wine in the crater.

Caravaggio - Bacchus - the gaze placed on the golden grid and on the earth square

Caravaggio - Bacchus - relation of the look with the wine tilted in the coat hook.

Below, the 36 ° line of sight (in yellow) rests on the wine inclined at 4 ° from the carafe on the edge of the format.

Caravaggio - Bacchus - the line of sight

Caravaggio - Bacchus - relation of the look with the wine tilted in the carafe.

Bacchus, god of drunkenness has a good eye on the intoxicating aspect of wine with his two eyes on the inclined lines of wine. But with his gaze fixed on the golden grid and the earth square, alcohol does not seem to be a simple hedonistic satisfaction, would it also allow to go through the golden door of mystical intoxication?

1: I'm sorry I can't show you this reflection better in the wine as it is melted in the dark color.

Do not hesitate to leave your comment, your questions at the bottom of the page, my pleasure is to be able to exchange with you on the pictorial composition. Thank you.




Work protected by copyright © guymauchampU79J1B9 and a deposit at SGDL Paris.

bottom of page