Studio of Giovanni Battista Gaulli, called il Baciccio (Genoa 1639-1709 Rome)
oil on canvas
147.1 x 201.1cm (57 15/16 x 79 3/16in).
In Greek mythology, Maenads were the inspired and frenzied female worshippers of Dionysus, the Greek god of mystery, wine and intoxication, known to the Romans as the god Bacchus. Their name literally translates as ‘raving ones’ as the mysteries of Dionysus inspired the women to ecstatic frenzy. The Maenads were entranced women, wandering under the orgiastic spell of Dionysus through the forests and hills. They were usually pictured crowned with vine leaves, clothed in fawn-skins, carrying the thyrsus and dancing with wild abandon. and so, the name of Bacchantes’ hedonistic, pleasure-filled gatherings were named bacchanals.
In mid-17th century, Gaulli's Genoa was a cosmopolitan Italian artistic center open to both commercial and artistic enterprises from north European countries. including countries with non-Catholic populations such as England and the Dutch provinces. Painters such as Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck stayed in Genoa for a few years. Gaulli's earliest influences would have come from an eclectic mix of these foreign painters.
From 1669, however, after a visit to Parma, Correggio's frescoed dome-ceiling in the cathedral of Parma, Gaulli's painting took on a more painterly (less linear) aspect, and the composition, organized di sotto in su ("from below looking up"), would influence his later masterpiece. At his height, Gaulli was one of Rome's most esteemed portrait painters. Gaulli is not well known for any other medium but paint, though many drawings in many media have survived. All are studies for paintings