Artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema's painting A Dedication to Bacchus is an imaginative and dramatic work inspired by ancient Roman ritual. The subject of the painting is, as the title suggests, a dedication to Bacchus (Bacchus was the Roman god of wine, and rites celebrated in his honor were called Bacchanalia). In this image, a young child is being initiated into the mysteries of Bacchus - this child is therefore a "dedication" to the god.
The golden haired child stands to the left of the painting, in front of a group of male and female musicians. Next to them a pair of graceful female figures are dancing to the music - these figures are meant to represent bacchantes or maeands, female followers of the god Bacchus. The center of the work is dominated by a tiger skin clad bacchante who is holding a branch in the air. She is echoed visually by another bacchante wearing a leopard skin who stands serenely on the far left.
While the actions of the beautifully depicted figures make A Dedication to Bacchus a compelling work, it is important to note that the rich archaeological details also contribute to the authenticity of this painting. Lawrence Alma-Tadema included several references to Classical art in this piece, such as his frieze of a centauromachy (a mythological battle between the Lapiths and centaurs) that was based on an image from the Temple of Apollo at Bassae. It is also worth mentioning that a pamphlet written by F.G. Stephens accompanied the painting when it was exhibited in 1889. This pamphlet featured an interpretation of the subject of Alma-Tadema's intriguing work.
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.