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Bacchus and Ariadne
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Guido Reni’s Bacchus and Ariadne features an angsty breakup, an awkward first date, and a princess sassy enough to intimidate even her godly companion.

Titian’s version of the tale may be flashier, but, like Le Sueur’s interpretation, this scene benefits from its simplicity. How else could we appreciate the two lovebirds in all their glory, engaging in a naked heart-to-heart? Bacchus’ lackluster attempt to strike a godly pose shows that he bit off more than he could chew with Ariadne. Unfortunately, not even his divine cape can save him now, especially when Ariadne’s eyeroll indicates she doesn’t plan to make his mission any easier.

Reni based this tableau off the most depressing relationship in Greek mythology. Ariadne saved loverboy Theseus’ life back on Crete, providing him with sword and string to slay and escape the Minotaur. Apparently blood wasn’t thicker than water for the young princess-- the Minotaur may have been a bloodthirsty half bull, but he was also her half brother.

Theseus would reveal himself to be as fickle as Ariadne, abandoning his girlfriend on the island of Naxos. When she awoke from a much needed nap, Ariadne was alone, the ships just visible on the horizon. Ghosted. Apparently, early audiences weren’t thrilled about their favorite hero being a jackass. In some retellings of the myth, Bacchus ordered Theseus to sail off without Ariadne. But we know the truth: no one’s perfect, and Theseus was probably a Casanova.

The god of wine was nothing if not an opportunist. Bacchus came seeking Ariadne’s affections as soon as the ships left shore, riding a golden chariot pulled by tigers. If his sick ride didn’t impress Ariadne, his pick up line certainly would: “Lo here am I, a more faithful lover.” The two would prosper in a long and loving marriage. Until Ariadne died by Perseus’ hand, of course. Happy endings are scarce in Greek mythology.

Sources

Sources

  1. “Ariadne.” Wikipedia. June 9, 2017. Accessed July 2, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariadne.
  2. “Bacchus and Ariadne.” Captured Emotions: Getty Center Exhibitions. Accessed July 2, 2017. http://getty.edu/art/exhibitions/captured_emotions/simile/index.html.
  3. “Bacchus and Ariadne (after Reni).” National Trust Collections. Accessed July 2, 2017. http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/108926.
  4. Cocke, Richard, and Stephen Pepper. "Guido Reni's 'Bacchus and Ariadne'" The Burlington Magazine 126, no. 970 (1984), accessed June 30, 2017, http://www.jstor.org/stable/881512.
  5. “Minotaur.” Wikipedia. June 24, 2017. Accessed July 2, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minotaur.