Images of Ariadne

She’s a tragic heroine, so it is easy to see why she has appealed to artists. Even Agatha Christie adopted her name when created her alter ego Ariadne Oliver.

Zoe Wanamaker as Agatha Christie's Ariadne Oliver
Zoe Wanamaker as Agatha Christie’s Ariadne Oliver

Ariadne was a daughter of Minos, king of Crete.  She defied her father by helping his prisoner, Theseus, who had been imprisoned in the Minotaur’s labrynth.  Ariadne gave him the thread that he used to find his way to freedom after killing the monster.  In helping Theseus, she risked the anger and retribution of her father — in a strange familial twist so often found in Greek myth, the Minotaur was also Ariadne’s half-brother.

The Minotaur, George Frederic Watts
The Minotaur, George Frederic Watts (1885)
Theseus, Sir Edward Burne-Jones
Theseus, Sir Edward Burne-Jones
Love in a Tangle, Burne-Jones' illustration of Ariadne from The Flower Book.
Love in a Tangle, Burne-Jones’ illustration of Ariadne from The Flower Book.

After securing his freedom, Theseus took Ariadne with him in order to make her his bride.  They stopped on the island of Naxos where Theseus’ memory was clouded and he abandoned her there.

Ariadne on the Island of Naxos, George Frederic Watts
Ariadne on the Island of Naxos, George Frederic Watts (1875)

Ariadne, like the Lady of Shalott and Mariana, is seemingly doomed to an isolated existence.  However, the Lady of Shalott’s  curse came to fruition but Ariadne was rescued by the god Dionysis, who married her. Accounts of Ariadne differ. In one, Dionysis gives her a crown of gems and upon her death, he places her as a constellation in the sky.  Most tales of Ariadne hold that she was given immortality and became a goddess herself, as seen in Hesiod’s Theogeny where she is described as the “wife of Dionysis, whom Zeus made immortal”.

Ariadne, Sir Edward Burne-Jones
Ariadne, Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1863-64)


'Ariadne at Naxos', Evelyn De Morgan
Ariadne at Naxos, Evelyn De Morgan (1877)


'Ariadne', John William Waterhouse
Ariadne, John William Waterhouse (1898).   You might like the post Waterhouse Signatures.

All the images I have shared so far have been from the 19th century.  I can not help but include one of my favorite images of Ariadne, however.  Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian.  The colors, the composition…this is a undoubtedly one of the world’s great masterpieces.

Bacchus and Ariadne, Titian (1522-23)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.