Charles Shannon

Hermes and the Infant Bacchus


Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1073 x 1073 mm
Presented by Francis Howard 1939

Catalogue entry


Inscr. ‘C. H. Shannon. 1902–6 ’ b.c.
Canvas (circular), 42 1/4 (107).
Presented by Francis Howard 1939.
Coll: Frank Gibson until c. 1924 (not in Gibson Sale, Sotheby's, 8 July 1931); Executors of C. H. Shannon, R.A., sold Sotheby's, 29 March 1939 (91), by Francis Howard (the painting was described as 43 in. in diameter, signed and dated 1908).
Exh: Leicester Galleries, January 1907 (7).
Lit: ‘The Case for Modern Painting’ by a Modern Painter, Burlington Magazine, XI, April 1907, p.10, repr. facing p.4; ‘Tis’, Charles Shannon, A.R.A., 1920, pp.6, 8.
Repr: Studio, XLVI, 1909, p.9; Studio, LXVIII, 1916, facing p.118 (in colour); E. B. G[eorge], Charles Shannon, 1924, pl.10.

The idea of this composition seems to have been in the artist's mind as early as 1897, the year in which he produced a lithograph (No.52 in Ricketts's catalogue of Shannon's lithographs) of this subject, ‘The Infancy of Bacchus’. The lithograph shows the same general disposition of figures but in reverse. The incident is chosen from ancient mythology, according to which the infant Bacchus was entrusted by his father Zeus to Hermes (or Mercury) who took the child to Ino and Athamas to be brought up. The dolphins are a reference to a later exploit of Bacchus.

This painting is described in the Studio of 1909 and 1916 as belonging to Frank Gibson, and is catalogued thus by ‘Tis’, 1920. In George's monograph the artist is stated to be the possessor.

Another version of this subject, with the same title, was sold at Sotheby's, 29 March 1939 (92); it was described as signed and dated 1926, 40×41 in., and as having been exhibited at the R.A., 1927 (153). It seems likely that this was also the painting exhibited at Barbizon House, October–November 1928 (12), ‘The Infant Bacchus’, 40×40 in. A drawing for this composition was in the same exhibition (37).

What was presumably a third variation on the subject appeared in the Sir Edmund Davis Sale, Christie's, 15 May 1942 (145), ‘The Childhood of Bacchus’, 47×42 in., described as of 1919–20.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II