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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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