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The Cover
March 10, 2004

Bacchante With an Ape

JAMA. 2004;291(10):1171. doi:10.1001/jama.291.10.1171

The tavern scene was a staple of 17th-century Dutch genre painting. The subjects were humble, ordinary folk who caroused, flirted, ate, drank, and passed out against the background of the dim, smoky public rooms of local inns. Often, one of the figures is being ridiculed by fellow imbibers for drunkenness or is being confronted by an angry spouse. The contemporary Dutch painter Hendrick Ter Brugghen (1588-1629), on the other hand, chose a grander view. He went to the ancient Greeks and Romans and borrowed figures from mythology. His presentations were grandiose, his style Baroque, his impact dramatic. His focus was on the monumental, single figure. Nor did Ter Brugghen's figures carouse in ordinary, low-life country taverns; they caroused with no less than the gods. They ate neither sausage nor herring, but ambrosia; they drank not beer, but nectar and wine. Their Dionysian swoons were not stupors, but raptures. Bacchante With an Ape (cover ) is a fine example of this sort of work. It was completed in 1627 during Ter Brugghen's greatest period and just two years before his untimely death at age 41.

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