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Titian, 'Bacchus and Ariadne', 1520-3

Key facts
Full title Bacchus and Ariadne
Artist Titian
Artist dates active about 1506; died 1576
Date made 1520-3
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 176.5 × 191 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1826
Inventory number NG35
Location Room 29
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Bacchus and Ariadne

One of the most famous paintings in the National Gallery, Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne illustrates a story told by the classical authors Ovid and Catullus. The Cretan princess Ariadne has been abandoned on the Greek island of Naxos by Theseus, whose ship sails away in the distance. Bacchus, god of wine, falls in love at first sight with Ariadne and leaps from his chariot towards her. Later, Bacchus throws Ariadne’s crown into the air, immortalising her as the constellation Corona Borealis, represented by the stars above her head.

This painting is one of a celebrated series by Giovanni Bellini, Titian and the Ferrarese artist Dosso Dossi, commissioned for the Camerino d‘Alabastro (Alabaster Room) in the Ducal Palace, Ferrara, by Alfonso I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara. All the pictures, completed from 1514 to 1525, are bacchanals – scenes of hedonism, drinking, music making and lovemaking. Titian shows off his great skill as a colourist, combining in this single picture all of the purest and most vibrant pigments available at that time.

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