In this important late painting the artist revisits his love of the mythological, following the style he developed as early as 1911 and greatly utilised in the 1920s. In the years immediately preceeding the First World War, Bunny was greatly influenced by the post impressionists and the Fauves. In particular, the influence of Matisse's wonderful sense and use of the flat bright colour is evident here, as is the monumental murals paintings of Puvis de Chevannes that become so significant at the end of the nineteenth century. The composition of the figures across the picture plane is borrowed from the designs on ancient greek ceramics and appears often in bunny's mythological paintings.
For centuries painters have looked to mythology as the source of their artistic endeavours. The gods and their associates offer an almost endless array of subjects and situations of which to render. Whether the intent be to moralise, provoke or merely decorate, the artist is inundated with opportunity to express themselves. "As the conclusion of the war Bunny turned almost exclusively to painting pythological decoration...Lucy Swanton remarked how rahter disconcertingly he would speak of the Old Olympian gods and goddesses, the Greek heroes and their women as casually and familiarly as of next door neighbours, with a reminiscent smile for the charmers and that look of slight distaste for the vengeful and meddling ladies." (D thomas, Rupert Bunny, Melbourne, 1970, p. 72)
"All my life I have wanted to paint big decorative things. I hated the pompous academic style, I wanted to make it more human." (Ibid., p. 72) Clive Turnbull quoted Bunny as saying. In the essence this is exactly what is achieved in this rendition of Silenius's folly. Here in the last decade of Bunny's life without the constraints of needing a patron to commission such as a work, he is afforded the opportunity to paint his own folly, an expansive, beautifully decorated work, large in scale and joyous in its expression.
Silenius is described as being the oldest of the satyrs, the son of Pan and companion and tutor of Bacchus. He is recognised as being constantly drunk, jolly, bald, naked, fat, bearded and possessing horse ears. In this work he is seen in the upper left, his back turned, slumped over a wine jug beneath the canopy. He is central to the myth of Midas saving Silenius whilst in a drunken stupor and housing him and treating him to ten nights with an unceasing round of frivolity and entertainment, well depicted in this work. On the eleventh day he brought him back to Bacchus. Upon his return Bacchus offered Midas his choice of reward for his freind's safe return, Midas asked that whatever he might touch be changed into gold.
"In developing his modern interpretations of mythological subjects, Bunny reconsidered aspects of his established style rather than developing totally new elements. This vibrant combinations of colours from his works from the 1890s were expanded over the full colour spectrum to achieve a close, hot tonal range. Similarly he drew toghether the energetic rhythms of his early paintings, the urgency of his oil sketches and the flatness that had always been a feature of his compositions to provide the decorative elements that characterised these new style mythologies." (M Eagle, The Art of Rupert Bunny, Canberra, 1991, pp. 15-16)