Attributed to Constance MAYER (Chauny, 1774 - Paris, 1821)
Oil on canvas.
H: 120 ; L: 97 cm.
Executed between 1798 and 1799, Constance Mayer's Sleeping Ariadne reveals the career turning point made by the young woman through contact with Pierre-Paul Prud'hon. Complex in its style and symbolism, this painting can only be integrated into the artist's corpus in light of his early work, too little studied, in Greuze's studio.
Although originally a student of Suvée , Constance Mayer developed her style in contact with Greuze from 1792. She perhaps still worked in the latter's workshop, or at least frequented him assiduously, and still embodies the Greuzian school during the development of his Sleeping Ariadne.
The drawing of the facial features, the angle of view and the shortcuts implemented in Ariadne's head are undoubtedly borrowed from Madame Greuze asleep (Ill. 3. Engraving by Fragonard after Greuze under the title Philosophy asleep), painting seen by Mayer at her master's house. Greuze's teaching is also perceptible in certain renderings of materials, in this case in the bark treated in large transverse strokes and even more in the creamy carnations of Ariadne's face.
However, the few Greuzian characters coexist here with a new manner, that of Pierre-Paul Prud’hon. Indeed, the two artists became closer, it seems, around 1798. During that same year, Constance Mayer left her father's home to live alone, a situation probably giving her more freedom to frequent Prud' hon. Thus, in his Ariadne, Mayer joins the latter with a strong look at the work of Correggio. We find more precisely the Prud'honian touch in the porcelain flesh of the body, the smoothness of the thick and rectilinear drapery or even the light shadow coating the figures and giving this characteristic vaporous effect.
Without having concrete proof, it is particularly tempting to see in the subject of this painting the expression of the early (and perhaps not yet reciprocal) feelings that Mayer has for Prud'hon. Like the sleeping Ariadne who awakens under the loving gaze of Bacchus, would the young artist patiently wait for Prud'hon's love? Intriguing detail, Mayer slips a single rose, the only colorful touch in a shades of greenery, into his composition. Should we understand once again that, like Mayer, this rose is just waiting to be plucked?
 Mayer's training with Suvée remained brief given the latter's imprisonment during the Terror followed by his directorship at the French Academy in Rome.