National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Rule of Bacchus [left panel] Workshop of Albrecht Altdorfer
Anonymous Artist (painter)
Albrecht Altdorfer (related artist)
German, 1480 or before - 1538
The Rule of Bacchus [left panel], c. 1535
oil on hardboard transferred from panel
left panel: 39 x 15.9 cm (15 3/8 x 6 1/4 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1952.5.31.a
Not on View
From the Tour: German Painting and Sculpture in the Late 1400s and 1500s
Object 1 of 12

Unique in northern Renaissance art, this secular altarpiece combines themes from Christianity and classical mythology. In the central panel, The Fall of Man, the figures in the Garden of Eden reinterpret the design of Albrecht Dürer's 1504 engraving Adam and Eve. The flanking side panels depict chaos unleashed by two pagan deities. According to medieval concepts of science, a human being's constitution was composed of the Four Humors, or fluids, which were held in balance before the Fall. After the sin of Adam and Eve, individuals came to be dominated by a single humor that determined their temperament. The unruly crowds in the two side panels demonstrate personalities distorted by excessive influences from Bacchus, god of wine, and Mars, god of war. Albrecht Altdorfer (c. 1480/1488-1538) often dealt with man's relationship to nature, and this unusual work was produced under his influence.

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