A Bacchante

WAG 178


The bacchantes, or maenads, were girls who were present at Bacchanalian revels. They took part in the frenzied worship of Bacchus (Greek: Dionysus), the god of wine and intoxication. In Greek and Roman mythology, the bacchantes became so uncontrollable and wild that they slaughtered men, children and animals without restraint. Alma-Tadema insisted that this subject should be read from the perspective of the protagonist as she awaits her lover to escort her to the revels. He emphasised that the young woman was not really a bacchante, but is simply dressed as one. Here the woman is shown looking out for her lover before taking part in the festival. All the details of sculpture and costume are taken from Roman originals to give the illusion of an authentic glimpse of life in ancient Rome.