In the painting titled Autumn, artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema has depicted a scene inspired by ancient Greek and Roman custom. For in this image a single female figure is celebrating the gifts of Bacchus (known to the ancient Greeks as Dionysos). Bacchus was the Roman god of wine, and his female worshippers were called bacchantes or maenads. So this painting therefore represents a bacchante or maenad dancing and paying homage to the god of wine.
The bacchante is dressed in beautiful flowing red robes, the color of which allude to the season of autumn. She also wears a wreath of ivy in her hair and is draped with a striking leopard skin - both of these things are symbols of the god Bacchus. In one hand, the bacchante grasps a flaming torch, and in the other hand she holds a gold rhyton or drinking cup. Large terra-cotta colored amphorae (storage jars) appear in the background, and to complete the scene, the artist has included a bronze representation of the god Bacchus on the upper right side of the painting.
It is worth noting that the details of this work make it clear that Lawrence Alma-Tadema did extensive archaeological research in order to achieve the appearance of an authentic ancient setting. Indeed, some sources suggest that the artist was inspired to create his version of a bacchante by a depiction of dancing maenads on a Roman rhyton. Alma-Tadema even had a photograph of the rhyton in his collection, so this seems to be a reasonable conclusion.
More information about the role that Bacchus (Dionysos) played in mythology can be found at Mythography.
Rosemary Barrow is the author of this remarkable book about Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Barrow offers intriguing insights into the artist's works, and also proposes ideas that lead to a critical reevaluation of Alma-Tadema's paintings. Graced with a generous number of stunning color images, this highly recommended book is certain to delight - and enlighten - fans of Victorian art.
Christopher Wood's elegant and informative book features a comprehensive "who's who" of Victorian artists, from Pre-Raphaelite masters such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, to what Wood terms the Olympian Dreamers - including Lawrence Alma-Tadema, G.F. Watts, and Albert Moore.