The Bacchanal Relief by Aimé Jules Dalou

In this episode, we’ll be visiting the Bacchanal Relief by Jules Dalou at The Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Welcome to Art, Culture & Books with me, Anthony King.

This is the first of several versions of Jules Dalou’s Bacchanal. It was originally exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in 1879. There are several versions of this piece including a bronze at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Jules Dalou was born December 31, 1838 in Paris and died April 15, 1902.

This relief of painted plaster was made in 1879 by Dalou and shows a drunken orgy which was part of the ancient cult of Bacchus. The word Bacchanal is defined “a wild and drunken celebration” from Bacchus the Greek god of wine.

In Greek mythology, Bacchus, the son of Zeus/Jupiter, held the position of god of wine and vegetation. He enlightened mortals on grapevine cultivation and winemaking. Gradually, he evolved into the beloved deity associated with wine and merriment, with tales of wine and miracles unfolding during his festive gatherings. According to the mythology, Bacchus experienced an annual death in winter, only to be reborn in the rejuvenating spring symbolising the pledge of the dead’s resurrection and resurgence of the earth’s bountiful harvest.

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By Anthony King (c)