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Storytelling in Miniature

Hans Sebald Beham
German, 1500–1550

Triumphal Procession of Children

Engraving, 1520
4 1/8 x 1 in.
Gift of H. M. Dunbar, 1944.30

While this print is known as Triumphal Procession of Children, in actuality it represents a highly ironic interpretation of a Triumph of Bacchus. Among his many attributes, Bacchus was the Roman god of wine-induced riotous behavior. Evidence within the print suggesting this interpretation includes the marginally bigger child in the chariot, perhaps Beham’s interpretation of an infantile Silenus (the corpulent companion and tutor of Bacchus); and the flaming torches carried by the leading children, signifying passionate desire (an attribute of any bacchanal worthy of being called such). A procession of children acting in an adult fashion was a common theme of the ancient Roman sarcophagus decorations that inspired this print.