I had some fun on Monday night in our Life Drawing Group. Our model relaxed into a pose of abandonment that Richard Moninski and I both spontaneously identified as “Ariadne on Naxos!” Ariadne was the first love of Greek hero Theseus, and the daughter of King Minos of Crete. According to the myth, Theseus was chosen among seven youths and seven maidens to be sacrificed as bread to the Minotaur, a monster with a bull’s head and the body of man, who lived at the center of a Labyrinth in the palace of Knossos. Ariadne armed Theseus and gave him a ball of twine to let out as he penetrated the Minotaur’s lair, making it possible for him to find his way out, once he had had a chance to fight for his life. When he slew the monster and escaped the Labyrinth, Ariadne fled Crete with him across the sea.
It’s at this point where the myth takes several different turns. One tradition says that Theseus (magically) forgot her on the island of Naxos and returned to Athens, where his father threw himself off the Acropolis, because Theseus in his haste to return home had also forgotten that they were supposed to furl a white sail, instead of black one, if he was alive. His forgetfulness may have been induced by Dionysis, the Greek God of Ecstatic Experience, because Dionysis desired to marry her himself. Dionysis is said to have discovered her sleeping, waked her and married her, after which she became immortal, a pretty satisfying turn of affairs for a jilted woman. Another version, preserved by Plutarch, says that she was pregnant by Theseus, when left behind, and died in childbirth, and still another asserts that she insisted on being put ashore, after which Theseus and the Athenians with him were blown away in a storm.
Ariadne was worshipped on Naxos. She most likely was a Minoan goddess whose myth got tangled up with the Greeks. The worship of Dionysis is thought to have originally come from Thrace.
Ariadne on Naxos by John Vanderlyn
Dionysis discovering Ariadne on Naxos by Louis Le Nain
Ariadne on Naxos by George Frederic Watts
Ariadne Deserted on the Island of Naxos by Hans Schuler
Ariadne by John Waterhouse
Ariadne on Naxos by Edward Reginald Frampton
Bacchus and Ariadne by Sebastiano Ricci
Bacchus and Ariadne by Charles de La Fosse
Ariadne and Theseus by Jean Baptiste Regnault
Ariadne, Venus (Aphrodite) and Bacchus (Dionysis) by Tintoretto
Ariadne on Naxos by Herbert James Draper
Ariadne by Sir John Lavery
The Triumph of Ariadne by Hans Makart
This is called Flora, but to me she looks like an Ariadne, by John Waterhouse
Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian