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
Southgate MT. Bacchante With an Ape. JAMA. 2004;291(10):1171. doi:10.1001/jama.291.10.1171