Bacchus and Ariadne, by Titian
Oil on canvas
National Gallery, London
176.5 x 191 cm
This agitated scene is among the best works of Titian, in which Bacchus —the god of wine— discovers Ariadne, recently abandoned on the Greek island of Naxos by Theseus. Unable to contain himself, Bacchus leaps from his chariot, which is drawn by cheetahs, towards the object of his sudden love. She reacts with evident amazement, probably unaware that Bacchus has now placed a constellation in the sky with her name as a first proof of his adoration. The picture does not include the end of this story: they would both marry and Ariadne would remain faithful to Bacchus until her death in the battle of Argos.
Bacchus and Ariadne
is a good example of the compositional brilliance of Titian, the first artist who made deliberate use of colour to reinforce the structure of the painting, independently of the drawing. Indeed, in this canvas we can see how distinct groupings, dominated by blue
, overlap to strengthen the cohesion of the whole.