Drunken Silenus

Jusepe de Ribera

Photo: UMJ/N. Lackner

Jusepe de Ribera (1591–1652)


Drunken Silenus

Oil on canvas

Inv. no. 781

Praise of pleasure


Not only heroic deeds, but also snug pleasure, offer a refuge in times of distress. This is what Silenus, a follower of the wine god Bacchus, stands for, pot-bellied, in merry mood and always devoted to drunkenness, a mythical counter-image in a hunger-stricken time. What seems blasphemous at first glance, is in truth an expression of serenity and wisdom. Silenus is the teacher of Bacchus and helps the gods fend off the Titans’ menacing attack.


The art of the age, always mindful of moral admonition, discovers in the figure of Silenus the joy of earthly existence. Those who enjoy are good-tempered and peaceful. He is immune from the dangers and vices under which the century incessantly suffers: pride and anger, from which deadly conflicts grow.

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