~ Frodo as Caravaggio’s 1596 “Bacchus”, detail.
One of the first art manips I ever made was of Frodo as the God of Wine, Caravaggio's "Bacchus" (link to Wikipedia's entry on Caravaggio here).
I saw the painting one day in a web gallery. The copy was smallish and a bit yellow-hued, but I thought it would be just great:
~ Copy of Caravaggio’s 1596 “Bacchus” used for first version of the manip:
I knew just which face I would use, too: a favourite of mine, of which I had a good copy.
~ Frodo in a behind-the-scenes still, in which his eyes appear decidedly green:
I made the manip and was very pleased with the steamy results….
~ First manip of Frodo as Caravaggio’s 1596 “Bacchus” (2004?):
It was a little blurry after I enlarged it, my fledgling manip work with our old program a little crude, but I loved it. I’ve kept it in my “Frodo Art Travesties” online album ever since.
The years past, a new program was purchased, and I improved in skill. But I never wanted to do anything further with this manip. All that changed at the end of October when I was preparing an LJ entry for the manip of Frodo as The Lute Player by Caravaggio. (Regulars of this LJ will remember I presented quite a lot about Caravaggio, which necessitated extensive browsing in many sites about the artist.)
While doing so, I discovered a gallery of much, much better images of many of Caravaggio’s paintings. They were clearer, bigger, and the colours much more faithful. One of the images in the gallery was the Bacchus. I was so wowed by how much bigger and better the image was than what I had used, I promised myself then to re-do the Bacchus manip someday.
~ Larger, better version of Caravaggio’s 1596 “Bacchus”:
That day has come.
Using the same face shot, I re-did the manip from the ground up, using the newly-found, infinitely better version of the painting....
About the painting, the manip, and Frodo.
Caravaggio's Bacchus was considered quite innovative in its day. Not only was Caravaggio’s technique astounding his viewers, his portrayal of Bacchus was very unconventional. In his painting, Bacchus is not his usual self: neither lordly nor merrily tipsy, which had been done before.
The face of Caravaggio’s youthful god (his model was fellow painter and younger friend, Mario Minitti, who posed for C. many times in the late 1500’s) is a bit flushed, implying more than a few glasses of wine have already been imbibed, but he's not inebriated. He’s wearing one of Caravaggio’s bedsheets, no doubt, the dingy mattress ticking showing from beneath the draperies on the left. His fingers are slender and pointed, but the fingernails (in close-up) are dirty. In spite of his youth, there’s something a little shop-worn about him. The fruit in the basket is beautifully rendered, but it is past ripe and going bad; the vine leaves in the god’s hair are not green but autumnal in colour – a statement about the transience of earthly pleasures?
Bacchus’ face is enigmatic. Some have called his look flatly bored, as if proffering the raised glass to the next patron walking into the Mt. Olympus wine bar. I would call the look more introspective, wistful, edging on dissatisfion. I imagine Bacchus looking up, too, but from gazing into the glass he has been turning in his hand, the ripples moving out from the centre of the wine’s surface. His look says to me, “Is this it?” “It” being what makes existence worth while.
Now, when I look at my newly-done version of Frodo as Bacchus, with all its newly-revealed detail, and the somber, more restrained colours, it changes the look of the manip for me. My older manip made me thing only, “Hubba hubba! What a dish!” I saw his look as a sultry “Come hither.” Looking at this new manip, I still see Frodo as delectable, but I also see him as someone for whom the party has begun to pall: a god of revelry who has lost his taste for it. He has left the satyrs and nymphs to their revels and retired to a quiet place to get stinking drunk.
Which makes me think of Frodo in similar situations, especially after the Quest, when he was expected to join in the celebrating when his heart wasn’t in it. He’d try, of course, being Frodo, for the sake of his friends and the folk who had done so much to make his mission a success, but, inside, I see the face of this somber Bacchus who wonders, “Is this, then, it?”
The redone manip also reminds me of Ian Holm’s portrayal of Frodo in the 1981 radio play of The Lord of the Rings, which ran in 26 half-hour installments (now available in a thirteen-CD set) on BBC radio.
In that adaptation, Sibley does an interesting thing. In the EE of FotR, the film writers give the lively walking song Pippin and Sam sing while walking to Crickhollow to Pippin and Merry. They sing it standing on a table in the Green Dragon. Brian Sibley gives the verse to Ian Holm’s Frodo, who is drinking alone in Bag End. Seventeen years after Bilbo’s departure, he sings it a little morosely, listlessly....
Ho! Ho! Ho! to the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe.
It couldn't be more different in mood than Merry and Pippin's boisterous rendition.
It's Frodo's accessibility that is the hallmark of Ian Holm’s Frodo. His Frodo is so like us. He has the same sort of emotional frailty we all have, and he scraps for every bit of courage during his ordeal. If Elijah Wood beautifully captures Frodo's otherworldliness, his "Elvish-ness", Ian Holm beautifully captures Frodo's ordinariness, his "human-ness". I love both portrayals deeply.
Anyway, Gandalf could not have arrived at a better time in BBC Frodo’s life. Frodo, like Bacchus in this manip, seems to have reached the point at which he, too, is asking: “Is this, then, it?"
~ Frodo in Caravaggio’s 1596 “Bacchus”, newly re-done:
Previous Frodo Art Travesty entry ~ Frodo and the Mermaid.
Scrapbook Album of all Frodo Art Travesties.
Table of LJ Entries featuring Frodo Art Travesties.