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Landscape with the Education of Bacchus
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Francesco Zuccarelli
Italian, 1744
Oil on canvas
51 x 59 in.
79.PA.137

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Accompanied by the young satyrs and nymphs with whom he grew up, the young god Bacchus rides in on a goat, probably alluding to his origins as a fertility god worshipped as a bull or a goat. Bacchus's plump, old teacher Silenos looks on from the hill while mature nymphs and a satyr dance in the background. Despite Bacchus's identity as the god of wine, no one drinks wine in this picture.

The loosely interpreted subject matter, however, merely serves as a pretext for the idyllic Italianate landscape with its cloudless sky, lush trees, and warm sunlight. Francesco Zuccarelli's characteristically lighthearted, decorative enchantments satisfied his patrons' desire for an ideal country scene on the walls of their own homes.

Zuccarelli frequently included gourd bottles in his paintings as a pun on his own name: the word zucco is Italian for gourd. In this painting, a gourd bottle hangs in the small tree behind Silenos.