(b. 1582, Mantova, d. after 1622, Roma)
Bacchus and a Drinker1600-10
Oil on canvas, 132 x 96 cm
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome
Until 1924 the painting was considered to be a work of Caravaggio, then Bartolomeo Manfredi was accepted by all the subsequent critics. The dating of the painting, however, is made difficult by the uncertainty about the chronology of Manfredi's career in general. It could be placed in the first decade of the century.
The early date of the Bacchus, an allegorical subject that recalls Caravaggio's earliest works, places us at the beginning of the artist's development of a so-called "Manfredian Method". The body of work to which this term refers is derived from the great Caravaggesque prototypes, and focuses on drinkers, game-players, gypsies, and tavern scenes. The style enjoyed a notable popularity in the second and third decades of the seventeenth century. This genre was particularly wide-spread, probably on account of its suitability to the transmission of allegorical and moral messages. The figure of Bacchus, derived from the models of ancient statuary and sarcophagi is probably also inspired by a lost prototype by Caravaggio, cited by Baglione.