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Sebastiano Ricci, 'Bacchus and Ariadne', probably 1700-10

Key facts
Full title Bacchus and Ariadne
Artist Sebastiano Ricci
Artist dates 1659 - 1734
Date made probably 1700-10
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 75.9 × 63.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1871
Inventory number NG851
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Bacchus and Ariadne
Sebastiano Ricci

This work depicts one of the most popular mythological themes for paintings from the late Renaissance onward: the love story between Bacchus, the god of wine, and Ariadne, daughter of King Minos of Crete. Bacchus discovered Ariadne on the island of Naxos, where she had been abandoned by the Greek hero Theseus, and fell in love with her.

Bacchus, wrapped in his traditional leopard skin, here rushes towards Ariadne, who lies sleeping on a bed of sumptuous fabric. A cheetah bounds beside him, and his followers dance and play music. Two putti descend from above, one carrying a flaming torch as a symbol of Bacchus and Ariadne’s love.

This work has an unusual vertical format and almost half of the picture is taken up with trees and landscape, partially covered by the drapery on the left. The rich colouring shows the influence of earlier Venetian artists like Titian, whose painting of the same subject is also in the National Gallery’s collection.

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