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This playful scene celebrates Silenus, companion to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and drunkenness. Silenus, a naked old man with a bald head, sits slumped on a throne to the left, supported by two men. Too drunk to stand, he balances one leg precariously on a tiger. He is surrounded by revellers who remove their clothing and enjoy the festivities. The flute player stares towards us, inviting us to join the party. To the right, a shepherd seduces a female satyr, who symbolises lust. Behind them, two centaurs with human bodies and horses' legs attack an ass. The composition is complex and sophisticated, with trees and rocky cliffs framing the scene. This was one of three bacchanalian scenes Poussin painted for the powerful French minister, Cardinal de Richelieu (1585–1642).
The Triumph of Silenus
probably about 1637
Oil on canvas
H 142.9 x W 120.5 cm