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Giovanni David

(1743 Cabella Ligure – 1790 Genoa)

Bacchanal. Etching. 29.9 x 21.2 cm. 1775. Grasso 116.

This bacchanal, rendered with great verve and Baroque intensity, stems from Giovanni David’s Venetian period, which marked a high point in the artist’s career. The etching belongs to a set of six which David dedicated to his patron, the Genoese diplomat Giacomo Durazzo, in 1775.

The artist has interpreted Horace’s motto “Wine drives dull care away” in an unconventional and highly suggestive manner. The night-time scene takes place in a picturesque, enchanted pleasure garden. Lying sprawled beneath a baldachin are a naked female bacchant, putti and satyrs, all of whom are intoxicated by their excessive consumption of wine. Behind them a fire is blazing and the woman’s curvaceous, voluptuous body shines out warmly from the darkness. All the protagonists are sunk in a deep, leaden sleep, and yet the scene is animated by a feverish inner restlessness. Numerous attributes, such as a pan flute, a tambourine and a Thyrsus staff, are strewn carelessly on the ground. A herm, topped by a mischievously smil­ing Bacchus figure crowned with a wreath, towers above the Bacchanalian scene. In the background a lecherous satyr overpowers a naked young woman; the turbulent sky with the pale full moon is a clear allusion to his passionate urge. The atmo­spherically charged scene is rendered in a brisk, spirited manner reminiscent of the masters of the Italian Seicento.

Significantly, Malaspina erroneously attributed a proof before letters of this print to Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione. The deeply etched parts in the foreground produce a dramatic, rest­lessly flickering chiaroscuro effect which amply reflects the erotic and ecstatic content of the scene.

A superb, contrasting impression with thread margins. Minor blemishes in the margins, otherwise in excellent condition.

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