Marble Sculpture of Ariadne Seated on a Panther

SKU X.0517
Circa

19th Century AD

Dimensions

30.25″ (76.8cm) high x 25.25″ (64.1cm) wide x 13.5″ (34.3cm) depth

Medium

Marble

Origin

Europe

Gallery Location

UK


 

Ariadne was a Greek fertility goddess whose cult originated in Crete. Her name is a Cretan derivation of the Greek word meaning, “utterly pure.” In later Greek mythology, Ariadne’s divine origins were repressed and she became increasingly known as the daughter of legendary King Minos of Crete who conquered Athens after his son was killed there. The Athenians were required to sacrifice seven young men and seven maidens each year to the Minotaur, a dreaded bull headed giant that inhabited the center of the great labyrinth.

One year, the sacrificial party sent from Athens included Theseus, a young man who volunteered himself to join and kill the Minotaur. Ariadne immeadiately fell in love with Theseus as soon as she saw him. As aid, she gave him a magic sword and a ball of thread so that he could retrace his footsteps out of the maze. After Theseus destroyed the Minotaur, he ran away with Ariadne. According to the most common mythological account, he abandoned her on Naxos while she was sleeping. Sometimes, she is also mentioned to have later married Dionysus. It is within this context that she is represented here.

The marble sculpture depicts Ariadne being carried upon the back of a collared panther in a wedding procession. Presumably, she is on her way to meet Dionysus for the marriage ceremony. This composition based upon the Clasical Revival masterpiece carved by Johann Heinrich Dannecker (born 1758, died 1841). Ariadne is represented nude, save for the crown of grape leaves that adorns her head, symbolizing her relationship with the god of wine. This particular work was likely produced in years following the death of Dannecker, when this composition became quite popular.

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