This 19th century marble is an ode to the Graeco-Roman statue which is in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (68.770). The Boston statue itself is a copy of an earlier Hellenistic statue. The subject may well be based on a 4th Century bronze panel now in the British Museum (GR1889.11-12.2 / Cat.Bronze 311).
Two other famous versions in marble suggest that they were made before the Roman one was heavily restored. They differ only in the restorations:
Carlo Albacini (Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando,
Francesco Carradori (Bona Room in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence
Our statue is the same model as these two marbles, implying it was also made before the restorations on the antique marble were executed, or that it had one of the 18th century marbles as model.
Ariadne & Bacchus:
The myth begins with Minos, the king of Crete. Minos’s wife bore Minos, a son that was half-man, and half-beast, a creature known as the Minotaur. Shamed by his wife’s infidelity, and the beastly offspring, Minos had Daedalus construct the labyrinth, a maze with many winding passages, but only one true path to keep the Minotaur imprisoned and distanced away from his house.
Twice Minos had fed Athenians to the Minotaur that had been picked by lot. When the third group of Athenians arrived to enter the Labyrinth, the princess of Crete, Ariadne fell deeply in love with Theseus, one of the doomed Athenians. She went to him and promised him safe passage out of the Labyrinth if he would agree to marry her. Left with no other option, Theseus agreed to marry Ariadne.
Ariadne went to Daedalus, the creator of the Labyrinth and asked him for a device that one could use to navigate the winding, blinding passages. Daedalus provided Ariadne with a thread, which when unraveled would lead Theseus back to the entrance of the Labyrinth once he defeated the Minotaur.
In the Odyssey, Homer writes that Theseus made to escape from Crete with Ariadne, but Artemis killed Ariadne before they could safely set sail (XI ll. 367-368). However, other sources, including Metamorphoses, Heroides, Carmen, and Theogony state that Theseus and Ariadne made it to the island of Naxos, and there Theseus abandoned Ariadne while she slept on the beach.
Ariadne is awakened by the absence of Theseus, and realizes that she had been abandoned. In one version of the myth she laments the loss of Theseus, and cries out in fear of the dangers of being left alone on a deserted island (Ovid Heroides X ll.75-88). She also dwells bitterly that it was because of her that Theseus was able to achieve his victory over the Minotaur ( Ovid Heroides X ll.99-110).
In another version, her lament is focused on the treacherous actions of Theseus. She cries out that no woman should ever trust the word of a man because he will always betray his promises. The gods respond to her outcry, and Theseus has a troubled mind and troubled passage on his journey home (Carmen 64).
As Ariadne is on the shores of Naxos, mourning the loss of Theseus, the god Bacchus arrives. He has been flying around with Satyrs and Maenads when hears Ariadne crying and falls in love with her. Ariadne’s story ends with her rescue and marriage to Bacchus. He take her diadem and places it into the skies where it becomes the constellation Corona. With this, Ariadne reaches the status of goddess.
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