NCMA Recommends: Statue of Bacchus

Roman, Statue of Bacchus, 1st—3rd century (torso and head), with postantique restorations, marble, H. 96 5/8 x W. 30 x D. 28 ½ in., Gift of Dr. and Mrs. John D. Humber

The NCMA’s Statue of Bacchus is a patchwork sculpture made from fragments, including a rare 2nd-century Roman torso at its core. The statue is wonderfully complex and intriguing. The marble from its various fragments comes from at least seven ancient quarries in three countries in the Roman Empire (Greece, Turkey, and Italy). Toolmarks and stylistic evidence tell us that not all the fragments are ancient; some fragments were carved at different times, but all were used together to create an image of Bacchus in the late 18th or early 19th century. In the 1960s experts advocated taking the statue apart to display the rare torso; after partial disassembly in the 1980s, Bacchus languished in storage until the beginning of the new millennium.

The Bacchus Conservation Project involved curators, conservators, classicists, art historians, geologists, engineers, 3-D specialists, artists, and even an NCSU basketball player. Based on research conducted since 2013, the statue’s conservation treatment centered on putting the marble fragments together again–and even replacing its missing arm! The Statue of Bacchus is now fully restored, and you can see its transformation in the project’s latest blog post. When the NCMA reopens, Bacchus will be on display until January 31, 2021, in the exhibition The Bacchus Conservation Project: The Story of a Sculpture.

Bacchus after the Makeover

After months (nay, years!) of conservation TLC, Bacchus is looking like a new man! He’s still his old composite self, but he “cleans up real nice” and looks fantastic with his new right arm. He’s got NCMA conservator Corey Smith Riley and multimedia artist Larry Heyda, of Lawrence Heyda Studios, to thank for his dashing new looks. Thanks to NCMA videographer Luke Mehaffie, who documented every minute of the process, you can see Bacchus transform before your eyes.

Date Night around the World

Inspired by the three countries where marble in the Statue of Bacchus originates from, we’ve partnered with Tabletop Media Group and area restaurants to bring you specialty meals from around the world. Enjoy six unexpected culinary adventures with cuisine from Turkey, Greece, and Italy. The restaurants offering these meals may surprise you, too–like a Japanese eatery serving a Greek dish! Check out the creations here. These one-of-a-kind dishes are available only until September 15, so start now if you’d like to try them all!

Make it an experience for all your senses by creating your own Bacchus-inspired date night. Go out for a meal or get takeout, and then enjoy one of our film recommendations or many live virtual events this month.

Our restaurant partners adhere to strict safety protocols for dine-in and offer takeout.

In Vino Veritas

Need a date night idea? Share a wine tasting inspired by the Roman god of wine. Our Bacchus sculpture is made of marble from countries around the Mediterranean, including Greece and Italy. The NCMA recommends these Greek and Italian wines:

– Nasiakos Agiorgitiko, a dry red wine from Peloponnese. Light and smooth with fruity undertones.

– Santorini Assyrtiko, a white wine from the Greek city of Santorini. Savory and best paired with grilled seafood.

– Appassimento Salento Bonari, a sweet red wine from southern Italy. Slightly sweet and full bodied for a long-lasting taste.

Bacchus and Friends Onscreen

In honor of the Bacchus Conservation Project, we recommend these films that depict mythical figures.–Maria Lopez, Manager of Film and Lecture Programs, and Caroline Rocheleau, Curator of Ancient Art

 – Black Orpheus / Orfeu negro (1959). Director: Marcel Camus. This retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice takes place in Rio de Janeiro during Carnival. Winner of the Oscar for best foreign-language film and the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Rent on iTunes or Amazon, or watch on the Criterion Channel.

– Jason and the Argonauts (1963). Director: Don Chaffey. In this classic adventure, the legendary Greek hero and a group of adventurers go on a perilous quest for the legendary Golden Fleece. Rent on YouTube, iTunes, or Amazon.

– Hercules (1997). Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker. Animated family-friendly story of Hercules and his journey to prove himself worthy of living with the gods on Mount Olympus. Rent on YouTube, iTunes, or Amazon, or watch on Disney+.

– Bacchus (2018). Director: Rikke Alma Krogshave Planeta. This animated short tells the story of a young woman who is lured into a colorful and mysterious world. Not appropriate for young audiences. Watch on YouTube.

– Fantasia (1940). Director of segment: Ford Beebe. In a segment set to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, Bacchus is depicted as a corpulent man with a wreath of ivy and big bunches of grapes on his bald head. Watch on Disney+. Watch a clip from this segment on YouTube.

Audio Description

This recording is an audio description of the Statue of Bacchus. Audio description is narration for individuals who are blind or have low vision.

Cheers to Bacchus! Virtual Lecture and Happy Hour

Pour a glass of wine and join Corey Smith Riley, objects conservator, and Caroline Rocheleau, curator of ancient art, on Thursday, August 20, for a virtual lecture and happy hour all about the Statue of Bacchus. We’ll toast the completion of the Bacchus Conservation Project, and you’ll learn some secrets behind the sculpture’s quirky new right arm.

All Hands Invited to Family Day

Join us for our first virtual Family Day on Saturday, August 22. We’re planning activities to help you discover all things mythical in Greek and Roman art. Watch videos to learn more about the Museum’s discoveries, and get instructions for making Bacchus-inspired artworks from the comfort of your home. Sign up early to reserve free at-home art kits to pick up at the Museum.

Virtual Slow Art Appreciation

Join us for Virtual Slow Art Appreciation on Wednesday, August 26. This free interactive program guides you through centering techniques and a breathing practice followed by an intentional observation of a single work of art from our Greco-Roman collection. For ages 16 and up.

Save the Date for Bacchus Scholars Day

Our virtual Bacchus Scholars Day on Saturday, September 12, brings together the curator, conservator, classicist, art historians, geoarchaeologist, scientist, engineer, 3-D specialist, and artist who contributed to the restoration of the NCMA’s Statue of Bacchus.


Aug 14, 2020


10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
For More Information:
(919) 715-5923
Wednesday through Sunday, from 10 am to 5 pm
Scroll to Top