Despite its ambitious scale and high degree of finish, the picture cannot be identified with any of those exhibited by Etty in his lifetime, nor does it appear in the comprehensive Index of Titles at the end of Dennis Farr's monograph on the artist published in 1958. The exact subject is uncertain, but the presence of satyrs, over-excited maenads, a leopard and grapes leaves no room for doubt that it is a scene of frenzied revelry presided over by Bacchus, the antique god of wine.
The picture probably dates from the very late 1820s, when Etty was particularly interested in such subjects and was inspired by the many prototypes in the work of two artists he greatly admired, Titian and Poussin. He was familiar with examples in the National Gallery, and about 1827 he himself acquired from Lord Northwick a copy of one of the most famous, Titian's The Andrians (Prado, Madrid), painted for the camerino of Alfonso d'Este at Ferrara. The copy, which was among Etty's proudest possessions, is now in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.
We are grateful to Richard Green and Roger Bell for their help with this catalogue entry.