A number of literary and visual references are combined in this pagan celebration. Nymphs and satyrs with goats carouse before a term of the god Pan. His identity may here be combined with that of Priapus. Pan was god of woods and fields, and Priapus a deity of gardens; both are associated with fertility and Bacchic ritual.
The instruments played, the sacrificial deer, and the props in the foreground are either attributes of these figures or linked with such rites. They include panpipes, theatrical masks (comedy, tragedy and satire), and a shepherds staff.
This picture was commissioned by Cardinal de Richelieu and dispatched from Rome to Paris in May 1636. With its companion, 'The Triumph of Bacchus' (Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art), it was designed to form part of the decoration of the Cabinet du Roi in the Château de Richelieu.
There are a number of preparatory drawings by Poussin for this painting, including some in the collection of H.M. The Queen at Windsor Castle.
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