(b. 1475, Caprese, d. 1564, Roma)


Marble, height 203 cm
Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence

Cardinal Raffaele Riario summoned Michelangelo to Rome in the summer of 1496 and ordered the figure of Bacchus. The statue was initially designed to compliment Riario's collection of antiquities, but for unknown reasons it entered the collection of Jacopo Galli in 1497 and was exhibited in his garden among a group of antique fragments.

The Bacchus was undoubtedly conceived as an exercise in the Antique. As a garden statue, it is superficially untypical of Michelangelo, being a free-standing group, designed to be viewed in the round; most of Michelangelo's surviving works were conceived for architectural settings with restricted viewpoints. The 'pictorial' finish of the Bacchus has been widely disliked, probably because the dull surface sheen of the god's plump flesh, carefully differentiated from the curling goat-hair of the attendant satyr, is seen as suggestive of an unwholesome sensuality unworthy of the artist. The use of contrasting textures is not unusual in Michelangelo's sculpture, however.