The Art Institute, Chicago’s Department of Ancient and Byzantine Art and the Department of Prints and Drawings have collaborated to explore the ways in which Renaissance images of the Greek god Dionysos were inspired by and responses to Classical antiquity.
“Dionysos Unmasked: Ancient Sculpture and Early Prints” is an innovative exhibition at The Art Institute, Chicago, that juxtaposes ancient sculptures of the god with Renaissance prints of the same subject. The show will undoubtedly be a fascinating lesson on how 14th- and 15th-century artists looked to the ancient past for standards of beauty and artistic perfection. Nearly 100 objects, both from the museum’s permanent collection and recent loans, will be displayed.

Andrea Mantegna, “Bacchanal with a Wine Vat,” ca. 1470 (c) The Art Institute of Chicago 2015

Dionysos, as the god of wine, poetry, youth, and sexual excess, has occupied a special place in the minds of artists for millennia. Known to the Romans as Bacchus, the god is said to have pranced and gallivanted with an entourage of satyrs and the woodland god Pan, as well as female followers. The museum reports, “All these devotees represented the untamed and hedonistic desires of humanity, which were unleashed by the intoxicating elixir of wine. During the Renaissance and Baroque periods, the time of early printmaking, interest in antiquity — especially Dionysos — flourished. Ancient sculptures depicting the god and his raucous retinue inspired artists to find new ways to transform age-old Dionysian subjects into prints and drawings that would appeal to their own contemporary audiences.”

Workshop of Nikosthenes, “Kylix,” ca. 530-520 BCE, ceramic, (c) The Art Institute of Chicago 2015

Along with sculptures, drawings, and prints, the exhibition includes Greek pottery, particularly forms used in drinking festivals. All told, the range of works spans nearly 1,500 years and is sure to delight visitors.
“Dionysos Unmasked: Ancient Sculpture and Early Prints” is on view through February 15.
To learn more, visit The Art Institute.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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