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The Bacchanal of the Andrians
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What better way to welcome the god of partying than getting wasted?  

The white sails of Bacchus’ ship appear on the horizon. Bacchus has blessed the island of Andros by making her rivers flow with booze, and the people show their appreciation by pre-gaming Animal House style to greet him. Why none of these horny drunks are paying much attention to the hot, naked nymph stretched out in come-hither position is a mystery. The creepy baby flashing everyone next to her seems to be a very effective cock-block. The sheet of music in the bottom center is a drinking ballad, roughly translating to, “He who drinks and doesn’t drink again, doesn’t know what drinking is.”  Now we know where Charlie Sheen got his mantra.

Titian (humble guy that he was) consciously based this scene on a description of a lost masterpiece from antiquity in order to draw comparison between himself and the legendary artist Apelles, said to be the greatest painter of the Classical World.  The male figure leaning on one elbow in the center was based on a cartoon by Michelangelo for The Battle of Cascina, and the neglected nymph was based on an ancient sculpture of Bacchus’ wife Ariadne. Good artists copy, great artists steal. In turn, Rubens copied Titian’s painting, but gave everyone more cellulite.

The Italian nobleman Alfonso I d’Este commissioned this to adorn his famous “Alabaster Room.”  This temple to the arts in his palace at Ferrara featured a triptych of stories about Bacchus: Bellini’s Feast of the Gods, Tiziano’s Bacchus and Ariadne, and this painting.  Alfonso’s obsession with the god of drunks and group sex may have reflected his own proclivity towards hedonistic delights or may have been a chaste metaphor for the fertile Italian countryside, depending on who you believe. I say, two things can be true!  

Alfonso was said to have run through the streets of Ferrara naked, and his second wife was the notorious sexual adventurer Lucrezia Borgia. (Actress Holliday Grainger portrayed Lucrezia in The Borgias, Showtime’s raunchy follow-up to The Tudors.) Both Alfonso and Lucrezia had numerous affairs. Lucrezia’s most salacious of these was with her own brother-in-law, who eventually stopped sleeping with her when he contracted syphilis and didn’t want to pass it on...chivalry in action!  Who knows how many venereal diseases the couple collected, but we do know they collected some great art along the way. 

 

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Here is what Wikipedia says about The Bacchanal of the Andrians

The Bacchanal of the Andrians or The Andrians is an oil painting by Titian. It is signed "TICIANUS F.[aciebat]" and is dated to 1523–1526.

The painting is now held at the Museo del Prado in Madrid, but it was commissioned by Alfonso I d'Este for his Camerini d'alabastro ('chambers of alabaster') in Ferrara. The decorative programme included other major paintings celebrating Bacchus and Venus, the gods of wine and love. Like its predecessor Bacchus and Ariadne, The Bacchanal of the Andrians was inspired by the Imagines of Philostratus.

The painting is set on the island of Andros. A sleeping nymph and a urinating boy are seen in the lower right foreground while men and women celebrate with jugs of wine. The absence of Bacchus from the painting is explained by Erwin Panofsky, who suggests that the god must be on the departing ship seen in the center background. Due to the artistic liberties Titian took in painting these figures, it is difficult to identify them. The musical score in the foreground is the canon Chi boyt et ne reboyt il ne seet que boyre soit ("who drinks and does not drink again does not know what drinking is"), attributed to Ferrarese court musician Adrian Willaert.

The Bacchanal of the Andrians has been admired by other artists including Rubens who copied it in versions that are housed at the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about The Bacchanal of the Andrians.