Bacchus (Dionysus), Ampelos, Silenus and a Maenad
||1793 - 1795
||Oil on canvas
||1092 x 1473 mm (43 x 58 in)
|Place of origin
Robert Fagan was a somewhat bohemian figure of Irish parentage who lived in Rome from 1784 to 1807, painting portraits, excavating and selling classical sculpture, and dealing in Old Masters. In a fit of melancholia in 1816 he committed suicide by throwing himself out of a window.
All four grisailles (monochrome paintings) by him at Attingham were presumably commissioned by Thomas Noel Hill, 2nd Lord Berwick (1770-1832), on his visit to Italy in July 1792. This was copied after a Roman marble relief, now in the Museo Nazionale, Naples.
Ampelos was a beautiful youth with whom Bacchus fell in love. He gave Ampelos a vine laden with grapes as a token of his love. The vine hung from the branches of an elm tree, and Ampelos climbed the tree to pick the fruit and fell to his death. Bacchus named the vine ampelos after him that he might be remembered forever.
Oil painting on canvas, Bacchus (Dionysus), Ampelos, Silenus and a Maenad by Robert Fagan (Cork c.1745 – Rome 1816), 1793/95. A grisaille overdoor. Five full-length figures, left to right; muscular male striding forward to the left with his left leg forward, back turned to spectator, carrying a large open-topped vessel on his left shoulder, supported at the bottom by his left hand and on the top by his right, wearing an animal skin loincloth loosely tied at the waist, a small drape billowing from his right shoulder and wrapping itself around the trunk of a palm? tree; a naked Bacchus with a diaphanous drape across his thighs and knees is striding forward to left, his left leg forward his body facing but leaning to the right, his head turned, almost profile to right, holding in his right hand a Thyrsus (a wand tipped with a pine cone – an ancient fertility symbol), his left arm around the shoulders of naked Ampelus, who strides forward with his right leg, facing, head to left profile, wearing a small diaphanous drape hanging from his right shoulder, his left hand holds a Thyrsus, between the feet of Bacchus and Ampelos is a dog, turned to the left, head turned upwards to right, behind Ampelos, to the right, is a naked child also holding the Thyrsus in his right hand and a jug in his left, behind him to the far right is a maenad playing an aulos, striding forward with her right foot, wearing classical robes. After the original of a Dionysus procession, marble relief, Roman, 50 AD. in the Museo Nazionale, Naples - with a figure of a Maenad with cymbals and a small boy omitted by Fagan.
Presumably commissioned by Thomas Noel Hill, 2nd Lord Berwick (1770-1832) on his visit to Naples in 1792/3; bequeathed to the National Trust in 1947 with the estate, house and contents of Attingham by Thomas Henry Noel-Hill, 8th Baron Berwick (1877-1947) on 15th May 1953.
Makers and roles
Robert Fagan (Cork c.1745 – Rome 1816), artist