Virtual guided tour
Frans Duquesnoy, Sleeping Silenus © Collectiebeleid Musea stad Antwerpen
This relief illustrates a story told by the Roman poet Virgil (70 BC-AD 19).
On the left we see the incorrigible drunkard Silenus, the tutor and companion of the wine god Bacchus, sleeping off his hangover. He and his donkey are badgered by a horde of merry satyrs and putti, assisted in this by a nymph. In seventeenth-century art, Silenus was often used as an example of intemperate behaviour, and his appetite for alcohol figures in a number of works by Rubens himself.
This relief is thought to be from the collection of the Spanish King Philip IV, who had been received it from Cardinal Barberini, the future Pope Urban VIII. It was made by Frans Duquesnoy, who settled in Rome. For the background he used lapis lazuli, a costly semiprecious stone known for its deep blue lustre.
Frans Duquesnoy (1594-1643)
gilded bronze and lapis lazuli