Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio Bacchus


Uffizi Gallery




850 x 950 mm



historical period


Exhibit Artwork

Artwork Details

The painting represents Bacchus, an ancient Roman god of wine and harvest. The figure of Bacchus is presented on a dark background which was typical for many early works of Caravaggio. He is dressed in a white robe showing his bare right arm and chest. He has a crown of vine leaves and grapes on his hair. Youthful Bacchus has big dark eyes, long black eyebrows, round blush cheeks and full lips. He is looking at the viewer seductively, offering a goblet of wine. On a table in front of him there is a wine carafe and abundant basket of fruit. Caravaggio used light colors in this painting which was typical for his early works. Later colors became darker and gloomier to underline the strong and dramatic contrasts between light and shadow. The artwork shows some evolution in Caravaggio’s career, a step towards great realism and naturalism which can be seen in details, like dirty fingernails of Bacchus, but especially in the items in the foreground, like rotting fruit in the basket. The model is holding the goblet of wine with his left hand which led to speculation that Caravaggio used a mirror to assist himself and frame the image in a better way. This method allowed him to represent the details realistically, so he used the method also other times. It is believed that the model of Bacchus was Caravaggio’s friend Mario Minniti, with whom he lived in Rome for a while. Caravaggio painted the canvas around 1597 – 1598 for Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte, whose guest he was in 1598. The painting was moved to Florence thanks to Del Monte, who donated the work to Ferdinando I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. The painting was moved in 1609, when it was listed in the inventory of Medici villa of Artimino. The painting is not mentioned in many sources, so it has probably been in a private collection for a long time. It had been long forgotten when it was found by Matteo Marangoni in the storages of Uffizi in 1913. Roberto Longhi saw the work three years after and thought first it was a replica of Caravaggio’s work before he found out it was actually made by him.

Artist Details

View All From Artist
Michelangelo Merisi was born in Milan in 1571 where he studied Lombard painting with Simone Peterzano, characterized by strong naturalism and realism. When he was about 20 years old, he moved Rome and lived there at the house of Pandolfo Pucci and then with the painter Giuseppe Cesari d’Arpino. He mostly painted still lifes and flowers in his workshop.

In 1597 Caravaggio met Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte, who was his most important supporter. Thanks to him Merisi met other important Roman noblemen and broadened the subjects of his paintings from simple scenes and still lifes to more complex themes. During this period he painted Rest on the Flight into Egypt. With the help of the cardinal he received his first important commission, The Calling of St. Matthew and The Martyrdom of St. Matthew for Contarelli Chapel in San Luigi dei Francesi, where he also painted St. Matthew and the Angel. He was then commissioned to paint the chapel of Cerasi in Santa Maria del Popolo where he painted The Conversion of St. Paul and The Crucifixion of St. Peter.

Because of his difficult character, Caravaggio often found himself involved in brawls and violent incidents, when one of them culminated in murder of Ranuccio Tomassoni in May 1606. Caravaggio was sentenced to death so he fled Rome and found refuge with the help of the prince Filippo Colonna.

At the end of 1606 Caravaggio escaped to Naples, protected by the Carafa Colonna. There he was able to live in tranquility and he painted many works such as The Flagellation of Christ (Rouen, Musèe des Beaux Arts) and The Seven Works of Mercy for the Pio Monte della Misericordia.

During his years in Naples, Caravaggio’s paintings were characterized by great naturalism, strong contrasts of light and shadow and figures of common people that emerge from dark backgrounds. The paintings were more dramatic compared to the works of his time in Rome. His artistic revolution influenced a lot southern Italian painting of the time.

Caravaggio traveled to Malta in 1607 where he met the Order of the Knights of Malta and their great master, Giovanni Alof de Wignacourt. Caravaggio made a portrait of him, which today is in Louvre, Paris. In Malta he painted The Beheading of St. John the Baptist and St. Jerome for the St. John’s cathedral.

In 1608 he became a knight of grace but his turbulent and rebellious character caused problems once again. After a fight with another knight the Order found out that he was sentenced to death for his crimes and jailed him. He managed to escape and fled to Sicily, where he was hosted by Minniti. He started to study archeology and painted the Burial of St. Lucy, The Raising of Lazarus and Adoration of the Shepherds.

In 1609 he traveled to Naples, where ended up in brawls once again. Meanwhile his friend Colonna was able to get him a pardon in Rome. In July 1610 Caravaggio left Naples to travel to Rome, but he arrived to Porto Ercole where he died of an untreated viral infection.

Collection Details

View all from collection
The Uffizi gallery was established in 1560 when Cosimo I Medici, the Duke of Tuscany, wanted to put together the Florentine offices and magistrates (hence the name uffici, offices) in a single building, to have a better control over them.

The work was entrusted to Giorgio Vasari and the construction started the following year. The building was designed in U-shape, consisting of a long east wing, a short corridor overlooking the Arno river and a short west wing, forming classic pattern of a Tuscan loggia. The entrance of the gallery is situated right next to Palazzo Vecchio, the house of the dukes.

The first museological exhibition was organized by Francesco I, the Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1574 to 1587. Thanks to the architect Buontalenti and the initiative of Ferdinand II, the gallery became a representation site, decorated by Antonio Tempesta, where the artworks were conserved as well as the series of the portraits of the Illustrious Men which were placed next to the portraits of the Medici family.

The overall space consists of 8000 square meters and forty-five rooms, all in the third floor, where the art collection includes some of the greatest masterpieces of Italian and European art, such as Giotto’s Maestà di Ognissanti, Simone Martini’s Trinity, the altarpieces of Duccio, Gentile da Fabriano and Mantegna, the Annunciation and Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo Da Vinci, many works of Botticelli, among them the Venus and the Spring, Raphael’s Madonna della Seggiola and Madonna of the Goldfinch, Tiitan’s Venus of Urbino, Caravaggio’s Bacchus and Rubens’s Triumph of Henry IV.

Ferdinand II wanted to add other rooms in the gallery: the room of Mathematics, a terrace and the armory. Between 1696 and 1699 the Grand Duke Cosimo III ordered the decoration of the corridor overlooking the Arno river with frescoes of religious subjects and he sent to Florence some of the most famous examples of ancient statues conserved in Villa Medici of Rome. In this occasion was built the Sala della Niobe, where the ancient sculptures were placed. Other self-portraits of ancient and contemporary painters were acquired and placed in the Vasari Corridor. Cardinal Leopoldo de Medici added to Uffizi his collection of graphic art and created the cabinet nowadays known as the department of drawings and prints.

After the extinction of the house of Medici due to lack of heirs, in 1737 Anna Maria Luisa de Medici donated the treasures of the Uffizi gallery to the city of Florence, so that the collection would always stay where it was created. In 1769 the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo opens the gallery to the public. In the 1770s’ Uffizi was seen as a advantaged laboratory for the studies of art history and for preparation of art, thanks to the work of Luigi di Lanzi and Giuseppe Pelli Bencivenni.

During the Kingdom of Italy, the renaissance statues were moved to the new museum of Bargello and the gallery was gradually taking the function of Pinacoteca. More and more visitors came, and the magistrates were transformed to public archives.

In 1900 the gallery acquired the painting collection of the Arcispedale of Santa Maria Nuova, including artworks such as the Portinari Triptych of Hugo van der Goes, from the church of Sant’Edigio. In the beginning of the 20th century the gallery reinforced the collection by acquiring many works of the 14th and 15th centuries from churches and other religious institutes, which were still absent in the museums historical framework.

The first renovation of Uffizi’s rooms dates back to 1956, when the architects Giovanni Michelucci, Carlo Scarpa and Ignazio Gardella renewed the rooms with light tones of colors that highlight the wooden ceiling. In 1969 the gallery purchased the collection of Contini Bonacossi including Giovanni Bellini’s St. Jerome, Cima da Conegliano’s St. Jerome, Francesco Francia’s St. Francis, Savoldo’s Mary Magdalene, Tintoretto’s canvases and Velazquez’s Waterseller of Seville and Portrait of Philip IV of Spain.

In 2006 the Uffizi galleries started the architectural restoration work, adjustments of the implantation and new layouts for the rooms. The museum remained always open and with the reform of the Italian museum system in 2014 the museums of Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens were joined to the Uffizi.