Skip to main content

Nicolas Poussin, 'The Nurture of Bacchus', about 1628

Key facts
Full title The Nurture of Bacchus
Artist Nicolas Poussin
Artist dates 1594 - 1665
Date made about 1628
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 80.9 × 97.7 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by G.J. Cholmondeley, 1831; entered the Collection, 1836
Inventory number NG39
Location On loan: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, Chimei Museum, Tainan City, Taiwan
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Nurture of Bacchus
Nicolas Poussin

The infant Bacchus, god of wine, drinks from a bowl into which a satyr squeezes grape juice representing wine. Paintings commonly show Bacchus as a drunken adult, but to show him drinking alcohol at this young age is unusual. Ovid’s Metamorphoses describes how Bacchus' aunt Ino watches over him. She is probably the seated woman in blue; her husband, Athamas, is the man holding Bacchus. The two embracing infants are their sons. The story has a tragic outcome when the jealous goddess Juno sends Ino and Athamus insane and Athamus kills one of their sons. Poussin may be alluding to this sad story through the dark clouds in the background and the goat, since goats who had eaten grapes were sacrificed.

The muscular poses in this painting show Poussin’s study of classical sculpture. The colourful draperies and subtle foliage shades are inspired by sixteenth-century Venetian paintings.

Download image
Download low-resolution image

Download a low-resolution copy of this image for personal use.

License this image

License and download a high-resolution image for reproductions up to A3 size from the National Gallery Picture Library.

License image
Download low-resolution image

This image is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons agreement.

Examples of non-commercial use are:

  • Research, private study, or for internal circulation within an educational organisation (such as a school, college or university)
  • Non-profit publications, personal websites, blogs, and social media

The image file is 800 pixels on the longest side.

As a charity, we depend upon the generosity of individuals to ensure the collection continues to engage and inspire. Help keep us free by making a donation today.

Download low-resolution image

You must agree to the Creative Commons terms and conditions to download this image.

Creative Commons Logo