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Reclining Bacchante

Jean-Jacques Pradier

(1790 - 1852) | D.819.1

Date : 1819 | Medium : Marble

After winning the Prix de Rome in 1813, James Pradier was set the task of executing a marble nude over the course of a four-year stay in Italy. The work was exhibited at the 1819 Salon under the title Nymph, although critics were quick to observe that the subject was in fact a bacchante; some noted that Pradier had been inspired by the famed classical Venus Callipyge, though he depicts his model with the languor of a river nymph.

The multiple sources of inspiration are mirrored by the ambiguity of the erotic working of the subject, the gesture of her hand concealing her breast, the pose of a body twisted in a way that can only be understood by moving around the sculpture. The drapery plays an important role in this working, suggesting a state of undress rather than clothing the model (her left foot is caught in a fold, her right wrist through an armhole). Far from inviting collective debauchery, this bacchante has abandoned herself to narcissism.

Critics had severely reproached Pradier for this sensualism earlier on in his career. The entire later body of work of this ‘last of the Greeks’ can be traced back to this work of his youth.