THE BACCHANTE by jean pronovost
This Bacchante sculpture just screams classical Roman elegance: the column base, the beautiful, nearly naked, young woman with eyes closed and luscious lips in a casual pose who is about to enjoy a bunch of grapes. She’s beautiful but sadly so ignorant. She’ll scream in horror and disgust when she bites into that worm. Talk about sour grapes.
Bacchantes were the priestesses and female followers of Bacchus, the ancient Roman god of wine and wine-making, the grape harvest, fertility, art and culture, spring renewal, and frenzy. They wore fox skins while they danced maniacally to loud music. Sexual promiscuity was the norm. Cultist rites included whirling and screaming while dancing to inspire greater and greater ecstasy and enthusiasm so that the worshipers’ soul could be temporarily freed from their earthly body and able to reach Bacchus. These rites climaxed with crazy feats of strength like uprooting trees or tearing a bull apart with their bare hands and eating it. The Romans took the annual Greek celebration and began to practice it more regularly, corrupting it. Before we had “sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll” there was “wine, dancing, sex, and flesh-eating” and it was a religion!
The Bacchante sculpture is mounted on a Roman column and has a Western-style Caucasian face, and this resemblance is meant to tell us that we are repeating mistakes of the past. Just like the ancient Romans, we are sliding into decay from the excesses of our lifestyle. The grapes she presents in her raised left hand are decomposing and contain worms, but she cannot see this because her eyes are voluntarily closed. She is blind to what is rotten. She has two layers of skin: one is an ornamented exterior that is now peeling off to reveal a discolored, and oxidized surface beneath it. The message is clear that when we focus too much on the aesthetics of appearance – things like plastic surgery and silicone implants or fake nails and eyelashes – and too little on being a good person, our society pays a terrible price. The decaying grapes and her flesh together symbolize the disruption of the original Greek god Dionysus, taking what were good and healthy things in moderation, like wine and fun, and turning them into utter excess and a shallow aesthetic, as seen with the Roman god Bacchus.
The oxidation of bronze and erosion of the column is also meant to symbolize the decline of the bronze era. The bronze era is past, and now our era is repeating the same errors and heading in the same direction – corrupted mind, being, and thoughts.
The Bacchante sculpture comes before the Maenad with the intent of inverting the order of time for these figures and their respective religions. It’s a truthful reflection of the progression of decadence since the Romans took the Greek rituals and celebrations farther into excess and debauchery.
THE BACCHANTE - THE PROCESS
- Two pieces: The column and the body.
- There is a metal frame in raised arm, fingers, and head. She is made of resin that is reinforced with fiberglass and otherwise is empty inside to keep her lightweight.
- The column is cast and made out of resin and reinforced with fiberglass, and then treated with various chemicals to erode, texturize and age the column surface.
- The body of the woman consists of many layers of modeling and casting, to create the unique aesthetic: The base layer of her skin was first, then the second layer of peeling skin was next, and then the ornamental design that is on top was done last. The hair was also done in stages to get the layered aesthetic of strands and decorative features, such as braids and jewelry.
- Air tools and power tools were used to carve the hair and other small details on the body.
- The sculpture is then primed, coated in real bronze powder, then oxidized with a patina, and then varnished.