Self-Portrait as Bacchus (Sick Bacchus)

Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi, detto il
(Milano 1571 - Porto Ercole 1610)
<p>Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi)</p>

<p><em>Self-Portrait as Bacchus (Sick Bacchus)</em><br />

Oil on canvas, 67x53 cm
confiscated from Cavalier D'Arpino (1607)
Room 8 - Room of Silenus

Like the Boy with a Basket of Fruit, the work came from the group of paintings that in 1607 were confiscated from Cavalier d'Arpino (1568-1640) after he had been imprisoned on the pretext that he illegally possessed arquebuses. To obtain his release, the painter was forced to donate his collection of paintings to the Apostolic Chamber, so that Paul V could give it to his nephew Scipione Borghese, who probably planned the confiscation.

This is an allegorical representation, in which the subject – portrayed with extreme realism – is adorned with the attributes of Bacchus, the god of wine and inebriation. The youth looks at the viewer in an atypical, three-quarter pose, holding in his hands a naturalistic bunch of white grapres clearly contrasting with his cerulean and unhealthy complexion. Art historians view the subject as a possible self-portrait of the artist,  dating the painting to a biographical event: his hospitalization at the Ospedale della Consolazione in Rome, for reasons that are not known, hence the interpretation which led to calling the work Self-Portrait as Bacchus or, more commonly, Sick Bacchus.