The painting Young Sick Bacchus

Painting of Young Sick Bacchus: Meaning & Analysis

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Hanging in the Galleria Borghese, the painting of young sick Bacchus was completed in 1594. It is said to have been painted by Caravaggio during his convalescence from illness after he had moved from Milan to Rome.

Let’s explore more of the story in this article.

About the famous painter Caravaggio

Born in Milan in 1571, the creator of the famous Carravagio paintings moved to Rome. Here, he began the career path that credited him with being one of the founders of baroque art. He was particularly famous for his use of the Chiaroscuro technique. This focussed on using the contrast between light and dark.

Personally, he was a very odd fellow. Known for violent outbursts, he was often involved in brawls and fights. He had to eventually flee Rome for Naples, and died in 1610. The circumstances of his death are unknown, with some believing he was murdered, perhaps by lead poisoning.

The history of Young Sick Bacchus painting

The history of young sick bacchus

Sometime after arriving in Rome, Carravagio fell ill. Whilst the details are not firm, art historians and medics have long debated what happened. During his stay at the Santa Maria della Consolazione hospital, he painted the Michelangelo Caravaggio self portrait.

It is entitled as the Young Sick Bacchus. Those who study the painting claim it is likely he suffered from something like malaria. Medics draw this conclusion from the jaundiced appearance of the subject.

The Young Sick Bacchus- What does it represent?

Bacchus is the Greek god of the grape – therefore wine and drunkenness are major themes in any related art. In the picture Carravaggio sits, with yellow whites of his eyes and skin. He holds a rotting bunch of grapes and wears a crown of ivy. On a table beside him lies another bunch of grapes and some peaches.

Ivy was often seen in images of Bacchus – it was meant to stop intoxication. The rotting grapes are a reference to death, probably due to how ill Carravaggio was.

Deeper Young Sick Bacchus analysis

Full analysis Caravaggio Sick Bacchus

Many analysts have drawn attention to the theme of lust running in the painting. The attention drawn to the mouth by holding the grapes close. The two peaches on the table, symbolising the desire to become united, and the gaping robe.

3 Intriguing facts few people know about

  • The Michelangelo Caravaggio self portrait was painted using his reflection in the mirror.
  • Carravaggio was known for enjoying alcohol, so Bacchus was a fitting choice of muse
  • It is said that the painting was created as a promotional tool to further his career

Ownership of The Young Sick Bacchus

After the painting was completed, it was actually confiscated by the Pope! Nothing to do with the content, however. Instead, Carravaggio owed a whole bunch of tax. From 1607 onward, the painting rested with the Borghese family.

That’s because the Pope gifted it to his nephew Scipione Caffarelli-Borghese. It remained in the Borghese family until at least 1693.

Where to see the Young Sick Bacchus

What better place to see this painting then than in the Borghese Gallery! Let’s check out the instructions you need to make your trip to this great museum in Rome.

Location of the Borghese Galleries

Villa Borghese Gallery paintings

The museum is located on Piazzale Scipione Borghese 5, 00197 Rome. If you are visiting, try to time your visit so you can get a nice stroll in the Villa Borghese gardens.

How to get to the Galleria Borghese

The best way to get to the Borghese Galleries is by Bus. Lines 61, 63, 92, and many others run through Pinciana/Museo Borghese or the nearby S.Paolo del Brasile stop.

Get tickets for the Borghese Galleries

You need to get tickets to visit the Borghese Gallery. Actually, you also need to reserve in advance online, even if you are in possession of a ticket (for example, if you already have bought a Roma Pass).

That’s because only a certain amount of people are allowed in at a time. Get the full lowdown on the Borghese Gallery.

Frequently asked questions about the Sick Young Bacchus

faq visit borghese gallery blog

Where is the Young Sick Bacchus painting?

Check this stunning painting out in the Borghese Gallery, Rome. Whilst you are there, don't forget to see Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne sculpture too. We have a whole article on it.

Who owns Caravaggio's Young Sick Bacchus?

The Galleria Borghese owns the portrait. After it was painted, the portrait was in the hands of the Borghese family. This was following confiscation of the painting by the Pope due to unpaid taxes.

Who painted Young Sick Bacchus?

The painting is credited to Carravaggio. Even though it is unsigned, this is believed to be credible.

When was Caravaggio Sick Bacchus painted?

The painting was begun in 1593 and finished in 1594. It is said to have been completed during Caravaggio’s convalescence in the hospital.

Why is Young Sick Bacchus painting famous?

It is credited with launching Carravaggio’s career.


This is a striking self portrait from an artist who certainly battled against the white grape now and again. Caravaggio may have a slightly chequered past – google him, there are allegations of homicides and drunken rages. But he did produce a spectacular array of art that still captivates audiences today.

If you decide to visit, make sure you check out all of our other resources first. We’ve guides on which Rome City Passes are best for visiting the Villa Borghese too.

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