Title of Artwork: “Young Sick Bacchus”
Artwork by Caravaggio
Year Created 1593
Summary of Young Sick Bacchus
Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s early self-portrait, known as the Young Sick Bacchus or the Self-Portrait as Bacchus, was painted between 1593 and 1594. It is now on display in Rome’s Galleria Borghese. Giovanni Baglione, Caravaggio’s first biographer, wrote that the artist used a mirror to paint the cabinet piece.
All About Young Sick Bacchus
After arriving in Rome from his native Milan in the middle of 1592, this painting was painted during Caravaggio’s first years in Rome. These details are sketchy at best, but what is known is that the artist was hospitalised for six months at one point during this time for an undisclosed illness.
Malaria may have been the cause of Caravaggio’s illness, according to a 2009 article in the American medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, as the painting shows a jaundiced appearance on his face, as well as an icterus in his eyes, which indicate hepatic disease.
One of Caravaggio’s early employers, Giuseppe Cesari’s collection was seized in 1607 by the art-collector Cardinal-Nephew Scipione Borghese, along with the Boy Peeling Fruit and the Boy with a Basket of Fruit.
Caravaggio may have used this early painting as a marketing tool, showcasing his ability to paint still-lifes and portraits, as well as hinting at his ability to paint classical figures from antiquity.
However, what stands out about this portrait is the grimacing and slouching of the head, as well as a genuine sense of suffering that can be found in most Baroque artwork.
Although the fruits in this still-life are in poorer condition than those in later works, such as the Boy with Basket of Fruit and the Boy Bitten by a Lizard, Caravaggio’s improved physical and mental health can be seen.
The use of tense musculature and the austere Lombard school style in its attention to realistic details show the influence of his teacher, the Bergamasque Simone Peterzano.