The Bacchante

Lequeu’s explorations of amorous themes are often amusing. Seen from behind, a woman wearing an ivy wreath positions an aulos, a wind instrument used during feasts, suggestively near her backside. An inscription in Greek identifies her as one of the bacchantes, female companions of Bacchus, the god of wine, who indulged in frenzied trances while possessed by the wild power of nature. Her face, seen in profile, resembles a theatrical mask—a reminder that classical stage performances originated in bacchic rituals.

Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1757–1826)
The Bacchante, ca. 1798
Pen and black ink, black and gray-brown wash
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Departement des Estampes et de la photographie