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Modern Bacchanalia! Nude, Ecstasy and Dance in 19th-Century French Art

Lieu : Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux - 12 February – 23 May 2016

A partnership with the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux

The Fondation pour la Culture et les Civilisations du Vin has become associated with an exhibition at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux as the first contribution to what is intended as a long-term partnership between the two institutions.

Organised by the Ajaccio and Bordeaux museums with exceptional support from the Musée d’Orsay and its national collections, focusing on the topic of the bacchante figure in 19th-century French art, the exhibition builds on university work completed at Sorbonne University.

The La Cité du Vin cultural team has joined the scientific committee (which includes art historians and curators specialising in this area) through Laurence Chesneau-Dupin, a heritage curator and Cultural Director of the Fondation pour la Culture et les Civilisations du Vin.

The figure of the bacchante, Bacchus’s faithful priestess, in 19th-century art

Bordeaux commissioner: Sandra Buratti-Hasan, Deputy Director of the MBA Bordeaux

Coproduction with Palais Fesch, Ajaccio Museum of Fine Art

This high-quality project touching on one element of wine mythology is a perfect match for the Fondation’s dissemination objectives. It is therefore an entirely justified recipient of the Fondation’s support, in synergy with all of Bordeaux’s cultural facilities and at the heart of the local culture scene, confirming Bordeaux’s unique position at the crossroads between the arts and this divine beverage.

Tackling all techniques and disciplines, this exhibition takes a new look at 19th-century art by diving into the visual yet also musical world of this prolific era. The discovery of the polymorphous and fascinating figure of the bacchante, faithful priestess of the divine Bacchus, thus serves as a unique unifying theme echoed in La Cité du Vin’s permanent tour.

In turn an ancient dancer, arched nymph or lethal maenad, the bacchante makes repeated appearances in 19th-century artistic creation. From Pradier to Rodin, Berlioz to Ballets Russes, a huge spectrum of artists have picked up this motif which makes intoxication the companion of Eros and Thanatos. The mythical priestess of Bacchus’s procession is regularly revisited, ultimately transformed into the modern-day sensual muse.

The discovery of the polymorphous and fascinating figure of the bacchante, faithful priestess of the divine Bacchus, thus serves as a unique unifying theme echoed in La Cité du Vin’s permanent tour.

Symbolising the aspirations, troubles and fantasies of society during the second half of the 19th century, studying the figure of the bacchante offers an opportunity to rethink traditional heritage assimilation and track its recurrence over time. It also poses the problem of the construction of the image of woman within society and the instinctual way in which artists examine female nudity on an arched, manipulated body.

It announces the victory of a frivolous society seeking pleasure where the upsurge of the primordial impulses of ‘disordered dance’ is viewed as a threat to political and social order.

One specific feature of the exhibition is that it largely draws on public French collections, and places the very greatest artistic names alongside lesser-known treasures withdrawn from museum reserves specifically for this event.