Bacchus And Ariadne By Titian



2015-06-26 11:19:25

Bacchus And Ariadne is a celebrated painting by the Italian Renaissance painter Titian.



Bacchus and Ariadne is the name of a 172.2x188.3 cm oils painting done on canvas by Titian somewhere between 1521 and 1523. When Alfonso d’Este was the Duke of Ferrara, he commissioned Titian to work on a number of decorative pieces which would grace the walls of Camerino d’Alabastro in the ducal palace. Bacchus and Ariadne was one of them. The subject of this artwork is annexed from Latin mythological texts authored by Catullus and Ovid who were both poets.

It basically tells the story of Princess Adriane who was wandering in search of her lover Theseus’ ship when she was surprised by a smitten wine god Bacchus. In an intriguing turn of fate, Ariadne who was lamenting her lover’s departure makes a swift transition from being deserted to being the object of Bacchus’ seduction and marriage proposal. The god’s interest in her marital companionship was urgent enough to warrant a promise for her to be a constellation in future.


The above story is skillfully told in picture. Bacchus’ mid-air discus-thrower pose is the centre of this dramatic encounter. The moment eyes land on it, they immediately gravitate towards Ariadne’s shocked and fearful posture then to Bacchus followers and sidekicks. The same triangular style of depiction comes alive when eyes roll from the child satyr then to the dog and finally to the calf’s head. Blue is the dominant color in the painting as it is woven from the sky to Ariadne’s dress to the flowers in the right foreground. This ultramarine shade is made even more alluring by the orange on Bacchante’s robe. Also, with one stroke of genius, Ariadne’s separate red, blue and white attires blend to the prophetic wine color of Bacchus robe at their meeting.


Critics fill the air with superlatives and words of praise when discussing Titians works, especially this one. It’s pretty easy to see why. This arguably small collection of images tells a lot about Dionysian times. The tigers pulling Bacchus chariot is a tell-tale indication of what use the cat family animals were to the Greeks. The child dragging a calf’s head with a string coupled with the nearby dog are symbolic allusions to the animal dismemberment that took place in Dionysian jungles. All this is told by a man whose access to the scenes he’s describing in color was nothing more than poems. Such vividness in portraying scenes from deep antiquity prompted art critic Michael Brenson to commend Titans for “…justness, timing and feeling for pictorial relationships that cannot be taught.”

Appearance in Exhibitions

The most notable exhibition of this European Renaissance era artwork is to be found enjoying the good neighborliness of its siblings in the National Gallery in London. Just like it was in the Duke’s Camerino, Bachus and Ariadne, The Andrians and the Worship of Venus hung side by side.

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