Sunday, March 26, 2006

Pleasure as God

This was perhaps my favorite painting at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It is by Caravaggio, and is entitled Bacchus. You may know that Bacchus was the mythological god of wine and revelry, but here he is portrayed as an inebriated teenager, rather than the idealized god more common in Renaissance painting. As if to signify the vanity of trying to find meaning merely in sensual pleasure, Caravaggio includes several unusual details: the rotting fruit, the grubby nails, the rosy cheeks of a half-drunk youth. Even the facial expression conveys more boredom than rapture.

If I were to hang this in my office, I think most people would imagine I was glorifying the god of pleasure. But with a closer look, they might see that it is quite the opposite. When pleasure is sought for its own sake (as an idol), rather than as a gift from God to be enjoyed in moderation, it leads to emptiness, defilement and waste.


Post a Comment

<< Home