Titian - Bacchus and Ariadne

by Alexanda Tuschka


Titian has created an unusual motif. What do we see here? The entire composition seems to fall out of the left edge of the picture.

The protagonists of the work are easy to spot. Ariadne, the daughter of the Cretan king Minos, stands at the left edge of the picture and turns her body into the interior of the picture. Bacchus, on the other hand, turns his body toward the viewer. He can be seen in a moving throwing position, his robe fluttering in the wind. The god of wine is seen in the entourage of his followers, with whom he has just taken a walk. Thus, on the right edge a drunken satyr can be seen. He has a wreath of vine leaves around him and is swinging a calf's leg above his head. Lustfully meet the eyes of the satyr and the maenad, who, like others, accompanies the procession by rhythm instruments. The procession is also accompanied by animals. Two cheetahs also pull the float on which Bacchus is. Normally we find leopards, these refer to the worship of the god as far as India. Here the artistic freedom may have spoken for the cheetahs.


The strong, bearded man next to it is borrowed from the ancient Laocoon group, which was discovered and admired in the Renaissance. The attempt to remove the snake from the body reveals extensive muscle play.


Which episode is shown here, the details reveal. Ariadne was left behind by her husband Theseus on Naxos - he sails his ship out of the left edge of the picture. Bacchus, according to tradition, found her asleep. He fell in love at first sight; however, she seems still timid here. Ariadne's diadem flung Bacchus skyward, where it became the constellation Corona Borealis, seen here in the upper, left corner of the picture.


The chaotic-looking image is well composed. It consists of two diagonals running towards Ariadne on the left. At the bottom of the picture, in the overturned goblet, Titian, the most important Venetian painter of his time, has hidden his signature.


Titian - Bacchus and Ariadne

Oil on canvas, c. 1520 - 1523, 176.5 x 191 cm, National Gallery in London

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