Bacchanal with Silenus

Bacchanal with Silenus
Andrea Mantegna (ca. 1431-1506)
Early 1470s
Engraving and Drypoint
Museum purchase through generous support from Gavin Albert, the John Howett Fund, and Patrons of Works on Paper
In 2013, the Michael C. Carlos Museum acquired Andrea Mantegna’s engraving, Bacchanal with Silenus (early 1470s), thanks to a generous donation to the John Howett Works on Paper fund.   Mantegna is celebrated as one of the most significant painters of the Renaissance.  His success in painting, however, often overshadows his abilities as a printmaker.  
 
Bacchanal with Silenus and its pendant print, Bacchanal with a Wine Vat, were engraved on the front and back of the same copperplate, and formed a frieze when printed.  Together, these engravings offer insight into Mantegna’s reception of the art of ancient Rome.  The figures were derived from drawings that the artist made after a Roman sarcophagus illustrating the story of Bacchus and Ariadne.  Mantegna included all the usual suspects in a Bacchic procession, from the Silenus figure to satyrs and musicians.  Scholar Corinna Höper notes that this grouping gave Mantegna the opportunity to demonstrate his mastery of various human forms, both portly and idealized.
 
Scholars attribute only seven engravings to Mantegna, making this print one of the most rare in the Museum’s collection.  Even at the time of its production, the engraving was difficult to obtain.  After reportedly trying and failing to secure an impression of Bacchanal with Silenus, Albrecht Dürer drew his own copy of the image, with a few alterations.