Portrait of a Woman as a Bacchante
25 x 20 3/4 in. (63.5 x 52.7 cm)
(1755 - 1842)
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. James V. Aquavella
Location: Currently on view
The woman in this painting appears as a Bacchante—a female follower of Bacchus, the god of wine and mystical ecstasy. The cluster of grape leaves symbolize wine; her disheveled hair, scanty dress, and enticing gaze suggest the decadence of Bacchanalian festivals.
During the 1700s, artists frequently portrayed their patrons as figures from classical mythology. Portraits of women in the guise of Bacchantes were also a popular theme for other leading portraitists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds and George Romney. This is possibly a portrait of Emma, Lady Hamilton, the infamous mistress of Lord Nelson. She was known as a performer of “attitudes,” or theatrical poses of Greek mythological and historical characters.
[Forman Gallery, Summer 2015]
See the artist's commentary on Emma Hamilton, who has sometimes been identified as the sitter in this portrait, in Elizabeth Vigée Lebrun, "Memoirs of Madame Vigée Lebrun," Doubleday, New York, 1903: pp. 66-69. Vigée-Lebrun painted Lady Hamilton on other occasions, so this reference does not specifically relate to MAG's painting.
Dr. and Mrs. James Aquavella; their gift to the Gallery in 2005
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This object was included in the following exhibitions:
This object has the following bibliographic references:
Memorial Art Gallery.
Rochester, NY: Memorial Art Gallery, 2000--.
Women Artists at the Memorial Art Gallery.
Rochester, NY: Susan B. Anthony Center, University of Rochester, 2017.
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