Asmus Jacob Carstens (1754-1798) was a Danish-German painter and draughtsman, born in Germany, who ruled the German art scene of the eighteenth century. A frontrunner of ‘Neo-Classism,’ Asmus was one of the co-founders of the later school of the ‘Historical German Painting.’ ‘Neoclassicism,’ which can be defined as the revival of the ‘Classical European Art & Architecture,’ was a popular style of painting in the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth century. It brought back the glorious days of the ‘Ancient Roman’ and ‘Grecian Art,’ and was mostly practiced in England and France. These countries made use of the ‘Classical’ elements extensively in order to express the emotions of courage, patriotism, nationalism, and sacrifice.
The simplicity and the grandeur of ‘Neo-Classicism’ captivated Carstens, who worked hard to infuse a ‘Classical’ spark into his work. The ‘Classical’ elegant forms depicted in his pictures were well outlined by the use of firm and dynamic strokes of brush. In order to paint, he drew inspiration from Homer, Sophocles, Pindar, Shakespeare, Ossian, and Aeschylus. The credit for his fame goes to his exquisite paintings “Battle of Rossbach” and “Plato’s Symposium.” However, Carstens’ genius and talent are also well exemplified in his most famous painting “Bacchus und Amor” or “Bacchus and Cupid,” created in the year 1786.
Asmus’ masterpiece, “Bacchus und Amor,” an oil on canvas work, depicts little Cupid drinking from a bowl held in Bacchus’ hand. Bacchus is seen sitting on an elevated platform, with an orange robe draping his well-sculpted frame partially. His head is adorned with a ‘tiara’ made of dark green flowers and his curly locks rest on his neck. In his right hand, Bacchus grasps a golden pitcher and in his left hand, he holds out a small bowl to the baby Cupid to drink from. Bacchus lovingly looks at Cupid as he feeds him, and Cupid, who has his one tiny leg resting on the other, attentively drinks the potion. By Bacchus’ side is kept a quiver full of arrows, and in the background one can see vineyards & trees in a rather colorless depiction. The bold hues of this brilliant picture create a magnificent contrast to its dull background. The ‘Neo-Classical’ painters put in an extra effort to portray the settings, costumes, and the accurate details of the subject matter. Carstens similarly stresses on the resurrection of tradition in this grand work of art.
Asmus Carstens’ grand solo art exhibition, held in Rome, in 1795, won him immense appreciation from the highly reputed international artistes. His great painting “Bacchus und Amor” adorns the walls of the Danish National Gallery (Statens Museum of Kunst) in Copenhagen, Denmark.