Two Dancing Bacchantes and a Putto
Claude Michel, called Clodion (French, 1738–1814)
Object Place: Europe, Paris, France
Overall: 45cm (17 11/16 in.), diameter of base: 17 cm (6 11/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
Two young bacchantes and a putto, each poised on one foot, stand on a circular base. The central bacchante is nude except for a strap that crosses her torso diagonally and catches a finely folded drapery that falls over her left shoulder, around her back and over her right thigh, passing between her legs. Her long hair is parted in the middle, drawn up in a knot at the back of her head, with loose curls falling over her left shoulder and down her back. She holds a bunch of grapes in her right hand and her left hand is interlaced with the right hand of the second bacchante. Her weight is balanced on her right foot, with her left foot extended in a dancing position. The second bacchante seems to run forward, her weight on her right foot with her left leg extended behind her. She wears a thin chiton that is loosely attached at her left shoulder falling below her breasts where it is held by a diagonal band across her torso which also catches an animal skin at her right side. The thinly pleated long garment is open over her knees. Her hair is dressed like her companion’s except that she wears a crown of grape leaves. Her left arm extends out to her side, her right arm is raised with her hand entwined with her companion’s. The little male putto clings to the drapery at the back of the central figure with his left hand, and balancing on the toes of his left foot, kicks his right foot forward. He holds a stick with a bunch of grape leaves over his right shoulder and is nude except for a diagonal strip of leaves across his torso. In his hair he wears a crown of grape leaves. On the ground behind the central figure is a tambourine filled with grapes.
Inspired by ancient works he would have seen in Rome, Clodion created a lively scene of a dance stimulated by wine. In classical mythology, Bacchus and his band of merry-makers inhabited the woods, and Clodion’s sylvan figures hold grapes, wear garlands of grape leaves, and carry the thyrsus (the wine-god’s magic staff). Their tambourine has fallen to the ground. The sculptor’s mastery of the terra cotta medium is evident in the contrasts between the smooth flesh of the women, the chubby rolls of fat of the infant, and the fresh, animated surfaces of the drapery, hair, and leaves.
Signed and dated on back of base; incised in clay before firing: CLODION./1800
Baron Gustave de Rothschild (b. 1829 - d. 1911), Paris; by descent to his daughter, Baroness Lucie de Rothschild Lambert (b. 1863 - d. 1916), Brussels; by descent to her son, Baron Henri de Lambert (b. 1887 - d. 1933), Brussels and New York [see note 1]. 1946, Rosenberg and Stiebel, New York; January 21, 1946, sold by Rosenberg and Stiebel to Forsyth Wickes (b. 1876 - d. 1964), New York and Newport, RI; 1965, bequest of Forsyth Wickes to the MFA (Accession Date: December 24, 1965)
 The provenance of this object, pertaining to the Rothschild and Lambert families, is provided by the sale receipt from Rosenberg and Stiebel to Forsyth Wickes (January 21, 1946). The Rothschild family consigned many works of art to Rosenberg and Stiebel, although it has not been determined whether this object passed directly from their possession to that of the gallery.
Bequest of Forsyth Wickes—The Forsyth Wickes Collection