William Holbrook Beard is best known for his nuanced, allegorical depictions of human behavior, and the delightful characters he created appealed to the mid-nineteenth-century taste for humorous, anecdotal scenes. The March of Silenus is a lively satire of mankind’s folly aimed at exposing social vulgarities. Beard depicts a mock procession in which Silenus, a companion of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, appears as a rotund brown bear accompanied by a troupe of drunken, cavorting accomplices. Goats dance, play musical instruments, and carry grapes while bears can be seen hanging from and hiding behind trees and rolling down the trail in the distance. All are anxious to taste the “nectar of the Gods”—some of them are even poised with their mouths wide open in anticipation.
Label from Menagerie: Animals on View, March 11–June 4, 2017