New Painting - Ariadne
I began Ariadne way back in early 2010. She began like so many of my paintings inspired by an ancient story. I have included the story below ... Back in the day of narrative painting artists and patrons drew on well known story as inspiration. With the strong tradition of storytelling these were commonly known and "entry" or reading of narrative painting was far easier within that culture.
The focus of the myth is traditionally the hero, Theseus. But I find Ariadne incredibly compelling. Often in life an attempt to do the right thing or stand up for an injustice, results in a tragic comedy of errors leading us down a rabbit hole from which there is no return to our previous life. The ground feels uncertain beneath our feet and things come to an end that we have no real accounting for. Shock follows. Then grief. In our lives we are not privy to why we have been abandoned, things aren't tidy. We wake up disoriented, alone and in despair. The story of Ariadne is an exquisite metaphor.
The Story of Ariadne (Roman name: Libera)
In ancient times Krete was the dominant power. Every year the King of Krete, Minos demanded a tribute of seven youths and seven maidens, from the Athenians. The tribute was paraded in front of the royal court then thrown one by one into a complex maze, under the palace, as a sacrifice to the Minotaur.
(The Minotaur is a half man, half bull creature. He was said to be the son of Queen Pasiphae of Krete after she was cursed by the gods and lay with a bull)
When the prince of Athens, Theseus came of age, he determined to stop the tribute and kill the Minotaur. He volunteered as one of the youths and proceeded anonymously by ship to Krete with his companions/other tribute.
When the tribute was paraded in front of the royal court the young Princess Ariadne (daughter of King Minos & Queen Pasiphae, granddaughter of the god Helios) was beguiled by the young prince. She was able to smuggle a sword and a ball of yarn to the prince. In return, Theseus swore his love and promised to escape with her and marry. Like so many teenagers Ariadne began to question her parents. When the opportunity arose she took the virtuous path. For Ariadne, this was a deep betrayal of her family and city, and she was knowingly causing the death of her half brother, there was no going back for her. Both she and Theseus understood this.
With the yarn the prince was able to leave a trail, he defeated the Minotaur, escaping the maze, he rescued his companions. He took Ariadne as his consort and they fled Krete together.
On their seaward journey back to Athens, they stopped at the island of Naxos, where Theseus abandoned Ariadne, leaving her asleep. Ariadne awoke and turned to despair. She wanders the shores of Naxos looking in vain for her lost love.
While there are several variations to the ending of Ariadne, my favourite ends with the god Dionysos (Bacchus) discovering her while asleep. He thought her to be exquisite and upon discovering her story, fell in love with this young courageous girl. He offers Ariadne marriage and promises her a crown of stars as a wedding gift.
Some say she was later slain by the goddess Artemis or else ascended to Olympos with her husband as an immortal.
Notes on other versions of the Ariadne story.
1. In another Dionysos offers her the sky as a wedding gift where she later would become the constellation of the Northern crown (Corona Borealis).
2. In other versions, Ariadne killed herself after being abandoned on the island Naxos by Theseus, Dionysos discovers her body and journeys to the underworld to recover her and returns to mount Olympus with her as his bride. Her death is also attributed to Athena and Artemis in other versions.
3. In other versions Ariadne's marriage with Dionysos occurred several generations before this when the god was still travelling the earth spreading his cult. During his war against Argives with a band of sea-women, Ariadne was slain or turned to stone by King Perseus. The god descended into the underworld to recover her and brought her back with him to Olympus.
4. Some versions say Theseus undertook his quest at his fathers, others, against his mothers will, again others at the prompting of Athena - protector goddess of Athens.
Queen Pasiphae's curse.
The protector deity of Krete was Poseidon, god of the sea. He sent to Krete a beautiful bull to show his favour. However when Minos refused to sacrifice the bull to Poseidon, Poseidon took his revenge by cursing the Queen with a mad love for the bull (much like Titania in midsummer nights dream). The result was the Minotaur, half brother to Ariadne.