Bacchus and Ariadne
||1794 (signed and dated)
||Oil on canvas
||2464 x 1651 mm (97 x 65 in)
|Place of origin
This picture, and its companion piece, ‘Euphrosyne Complaining to Venus’, represent the theme of love lost and found, as well as the painful pleasure that love can inflict. This depicts the moment that Bacchus, the god of wine, finds Ariadne, who has been abandoned by her lover, Theseus on the island of Naxos. Bacchus is shown being led to her by Cupid, wearing his traditional leopard skin. Ariadne is easily consoled by Bacchus and they later marry.
The picture was commissioned by Thomas Noel Hill, 2nd Lord Berwick (1770 – 1832), whilst he was in Rome. The subject may have been chosen by his travelling companion, Dr Edward Clarke. It was taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, whereas the theme of the companion picture was taken from a contemporary poem by Metastasio (1698 – 1782), so the pictures were also a pictorial representation of the debate on the comparative merits of classical and modern verse.
Oil painting on canvas, Bacchus and Ariadne by Angelica Kauffman RA (Chur 1741 – Rome 1807), signed and dated: Angelica Kauffman Pinx: Romae 1794. Bacchus, the god of wine, led by Cupid, who draws curtain aside, to reveal Adriadne asleep at the right. Bacchus first encountered Ariadne, the daughter of the King Minos of Crete, on the island of Naxos after she had been abandoned by Theseus. An earlier version of the subject, dated 1764 and among first classical pictures by Kauffman is in the Landesmuseum, Bregenz. Companion to 'Euphrosyne complaining to Venus of the Wound caused by Cupid’s Dart' by Angelica Kauffman.
Commissioned from the artist by Thomas Noel, 2nd Lord Berwick; thence by descent; [1847 Catalogue of Paintings, p.17; 1861 Inventory p.223; 1827 sale catalogue, lot 53, p.93]; bequeathed to the National Trust with the estate, house and contents of Attingham by Thomas Henry Noel-Hill, 8th Baron Berwick (1877-1947) on 15th May 1953.
Marks and inscriptions
Angelica Kauffmann Pinx Romae 1793 (signed and dated on bottom of plinth)
Makers and roles
Angelica Kauffman RA (Chur 1741 – Rome 1807), artist