- Museum number
Midas and Bacchus supporting Silenus, formerly in an album; with a procession of revellers
Verso: Sketch of the same composition
To the right of the recto study the stunted and naked Silenus is about to fall from his donkey, which looks back at its rider with an amused twinkle in its eye. Midas supports the plump little figure with his left arm while Bacchus takes his weight by the shoulders. Revellers occupy the left portion of the scene. Much the same compositional solution is tried out in the thumbnail sketch on the verso, though here some of the figures in the procession have cymbals and the youth in the bottom left corner, now overcome by drink, lies prostrate on the ground and is about to be lifted up by a companion.
- Production date
Height: 169 millimetres
Width: 258 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Although long reported to have been destroyed the Del Monte casino is still extant along with Sacchi's related frescoes (see report entitled 'In una casa spunta affresco di Sacchi pittore romano del Seicento' in "La Repubblica" 29/11/2011). The present drawing differs from the finished work in many details, particularly on the left-hand side where the reclining figure in the foreground was replaced by a satyr holding a goat.
Lit.: N. Turner, in exhib. cat., BM, 'The Study of Italian Drawings: The Contribution of Philip Pouncey', 1994, no. 79; N. Turner, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Roman Baroque Drawings', London, 1999, I, no. 277
This and 1963,1109.27 and 1963,1109.24-25, which are drawn on the same thin paper and share the same provenance, were also once mounted on the same type of backing sheet, with the border ruled in brown ink. They were later included in the Broke Hall album, which seems to have been assembled in the mid-nineteenth century.
This is a study for the rectangular overdoor above the entrance to the now-destroyed 'casino' of Cardinal Francesco Maria Bourbon del Monte (1549-1626), for whom see also the following entry. The commission to decorate the interior of this building with a cycle of frescoes of mythological subjects alluding to the passing of the seasons ("Le stagioni che prendono vita dal sole") was, without question, the most important of Sacchi's early career. The summer house had been built on the banks of the Tiber in the garden of the Cardinal's villa, which occupied the site of the present Palazzo Borghese on the Via Ripetta (the 'casino' had been especially constructed as "una Loggia di ricreazione, nella quale volendo in tempo d'estate fare l'invito d'una Cena" (Bellori, ed. Piacentini, 1942, p. 46)).
Although no longer extant, much can be gleaned about the appearance of the frescoes in the 'casino' from Bellori's description of them in his life of Sacchi, where the overdoor is described as follows (Bellori, ed. Piacentini, 1942, p. 47):
"Sulla Porta incontro al Fenestrone dipinse un Baccanale con figure grandi al naturale fintovi Sileno portato in grembo da Bacco, e dal Re Mida con la Corona di raggi d'oro, ed orecchj asinini per argomento delle ricchezze il più sovente accompagnate dall'ebrietà, e dall'Ignoranza: Vi sono altri furiosi, che suonano, e bevono insanamente, col qual'Emblema il Cardinale ch'era sobrio, e moderato volle dinotare la bruttezza di questi vizj, e la continenza del Convito".
Sacchi's composition, as this drawing confirms, was directly inspired by Annibale Carracci's famous fresco of the 'Triumph of Bacchus' in the centre of the ceiling of the Gallery of the Palazzo Farnese, Rome (Posner, 1971, II, pl. III-X). The central group in Sacchi's composition depends unashamedly on the group of Silenus riding on a donkey supported by revellers on the right of Annibale's fresco, while the reclining figure that rounds off the design in the lower left of Sacchi's drawing does so in much the same way as an equivalent figure in the Farnese Gallery ceiling.
The dating of Sacchi's decoration is somewhat vexed. Harris (1977(a), p. 53) believes the frescoes in del Monte's casino were painted in the period c. 1622-4 (in 1965, p. 604, she dated them 1624-6). However, Bellori (ed. Piacentini, 1942, p.47) stated unequivocally that they were finished when Sacchi was 18. This would presuppose a date of c. 1617-19. Although at first sight Bellori's dating might seem far-fetched, it should be remembered that Sacchi was taken into the Cardinal's household when he was only about 11, soon after he had won a drawing competition at the Accademia di San Luca, Rome, at the age of ten (Harris, 1977(a), p. 1). On this ground, it is not impossible that in his late teens Sacchi could have undertaken such a decoration, and Bellori's dating is supported by Spezzaferro (1971, p.81).
A drawing formerly on the London art market (sale, Christie's, London, 5 July 1988, lot 237, repr., as circle of Agostino Tassi: red chalk, 150x258mm; inscribed on the verso in brown ink "Mano del sig.r Andrea Sacchi"), once in the collections of Carlo Prayer and Juan and Felix Bernasconi, appears to be a study for another of the scenes in the 'casino'. According to Bellori's description, one of the stories in the painted 'sottarchi' over the lunettes at the top of the side walls represented "Cere che parla ad una Naide nell'acque" (Bellori, ed. Piacentini, 1942, p.47), and thus evidently corresponds to the subject of the ex-Christie's drawing, which also agrees perfectly in style with 1963,1109.26. According to Bellori, the lunettes were decorated with "statue di Giovani finte di stucco, i quali seggono da tutte quattro le parti e reggono la cornice intessuta d'un festone, e dentro le Lunette istesse sono colorite medaglie fra fogliami". From the evidence of the ex-Christie's drawing, however, it would seem that at some point Sacchi had the idea of filling the lunettes with the mythological scenes that were later to appear in the soffits.
A copy of this drawing is in the Ambrosiana, Milan (inv.no. F. 232, no.349: red chalk, 175x250mm; Harris, 1977(a), p. 53, fig. 12).
Literature: Harris, 1965, p.603; Harris, 1977(a), pp.4 and 53, under no. 11, and fig. 10.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1964, BM, Recent Acquisitions, no.18
1994, BM, 'The Study of Italian Drawings', no.79
2000 Mar-Jun, Rome, Palazzo delle Esosizione, 'Roma Antica e Moderna..'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- From an album of chiefly 17th-century Italian drawings, with a 19th-century binding inscribed: "CHALKS"; on the back fly-leaf: "Broke Hall". The entire album was purchased using £240 donated to the BM by Sotheby's. Some drawings were mounted at the time of acquisition by the Museum (1963,1109.29-31, 1963,1109.26-27, 1963,1109.24-25); the remainder was registered in 1988 (see 1988,1105.91 and sub-numbers).
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number