Friday, November 20, 2015

Ancient Orgy 4: Two Bacchanalian scenes by Auguste Levêque




We have featured a couple of paintings by Belgian artist Auguste Levêque before, here and here.  He had two attempts at an orgy scene, although they were both christened Bacchanalian scenes.  It is unlikely that orgies were common in Ancient Rome as Roman sexual morals ran contrary to the concept.  However they are mentioned occasionally and it seems likely that group sex did happen sometimes: Amongst Roman citizens and prostitutes in brothels, on rare occasions under certain Emperors and as part of religious festivals such as the Bacchanalia, the festivals of Bacchus the Roman God of Wine, intoxication freedom and ecstasy.  The cult of Bacchus came to Rome from Greeks in Southern Italy, based on their own festivals of .Dionysus.  Bacchanalian festivals arrived in Rome about 200BC and were later described in lurid terms by Livy who was, though, writing 200 years later.  Certainly the Roman authorities did crack down on Bacchanalian gatherings and limited the number of people who could participate at one time.  Originally, it seems, this was a female cult and there was a suggestion that, even after men started to particpate, women outnumbered men at these events by two to one.  Certainly, this painting by Levêque features far more sumptuous ladies than men and everyone seem to be having a lovely time!




The second of Levêque's Bacchanalian scenes features rather more embracing couples than the first, several fully fleeced ladies and even some mixed race action.  Although we haven't been able to find out exact dates for these paintings they are both likely to date from 1890-1910 so are quite racy for the period.

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