(b. 1462, Firenze, d. 1521, Firenze)

The Misfortunes of Silenus

Oil on panel
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge

Silenus in Greek mythology is a rural god, one of the retinue of Bacchus, a gay, fat old drunkard who was yet wise and had the gift of prophecy. On the picture he is lolling drunkenly the back of an ass.

Piero di Cosimo's two mythological paintings, the Discovery of Honey (Art Museum, Worcester) and The Misfortunes of Silenus (Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge), with their free, combinatory constructions, bright palette and almost outrageous sense of humour and wit, were ordered by Giovanni Vespucci.