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Art Analysis: Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne, Essay Example

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Essay

What makes an art as valuable as it is? One is that of the name of the artist who made it, another is that of the culture it represents, and lastly is the reason behind its making. The painting of Bacchus and Ariadne is a classic representation of Titian’s work of art. Relatively, its meaning and the basis of its message come from a very classical origin which includes the consideration over the popularity of the Greek mythology during the 1500’s. Released in 1520 by Titian himself, this art work was made under the request of the Duke of Ferrara. The duke placed the said work in the Camerino D’Alabstro which was a special room in his mansion dedicated to painted work of arts regarding the classical novels that he was fond of. To better provide an analysis of the said art, three theories should be used as basis for this discussion. One is the formal theory, another is the socio-cultural theory and the third is the expressive theory.

Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne

Derived from the story created by the poets Catullus and Ovid, Titian’s work on Bacchus and Ariadne was a classic representation of his love for the ideas presented by the Greek mythology. Gods having relations with humans was a common norm in the aspect of presenting deities in relation to Greek mythodology. As of now, the painting is already under the care of the National Museum in London where it is posted along with other classical paintings both from Titian and other painters of the 1500’s.

To analyze the artwork under the principles of formal theory, its origin shall be better defined herein. Based on the poem, Bacchus here is shown to be reaching himself to Ariadne. He is seemingly on a chariot driven by two cheetahs. Ariadne was left by Theseus in Naxos, a Greek island. Upon seeing Ariadne, Bacchus decides to leap off from his chariot to be with her. The story further imposes that Bacchus fell in love with the beautiful Ariadne that is why he felt compelled to toss himself out of the chariot. Behind them are people who are not necessarily part of the actual story and yet are considered important in interpreting the culture that stands as the foundation of the painting’s production.

On the aspect of socio-cultural theory, this painting could be seen to feature a particular situation in the community relation to the value of the art. Basically, the people in the background shows how the generation back in the 1500’s consider deities to be among humans. They have been considered to be like humans, having emotions and making sins and mistakes just like humans do. Although they may have been considered to have specific power and authority over the human community, they are still viewed as ‘just like humans’ who for so many reasons react on matters in such an imperfect manner, letting their heart’s desires be followed over their responsibilities to the people. This makes the said deities less respected and yet recognized because of the power that they have and the possibilities of punishments that they could impose on the people.

On the other end, the same figure of people on the background, including the dogs may also impose a sense of visionary observation on the part of the story’s plot being portrayed in the painting. The duke was believed to have a dog which was represented by the dogs in the painting. The people may have been a depiction of the duke’s subjects having a good time looking through the classical story between Bacchus and Ariadne. This interpretation however makes the whole work of art more personal than rendered according to the commands of the required art in itself.

The theory of expressionism aims to create a sense of distinction on how the art itself creates a worthy representation of the artist. To reflect more of the painting’s worth, Titian was very attentive to how he used the details that are relatively connected to the poem and what was important to the duke. The people, the dogs, the characters of Ariadne and Bacchus could be considered as an amalgamation of the different elements of living and social recognition that were important to the duke. Understandably, to make sure that the contrast of the worth of each detail is fully commanded upon, Titian used different hues to define the three different sections of the painting. Lighting was specifically directed towards Bacchus and Ariadne who were the focal characters of the story. The crown of stars [known as the constellation Corona] is also seen through the skies. In the background, Titian was also careful to put in the ship carrying Theseus away from Ariadne. This specifically indicates an important aspect of the story that provides a reason as to why Ariadne was driven to give attention to Bacchus in the end. To note the difference of the value of elements between the main characters of the scene with that of the people in the background, Titian rendered the images of the people in the background to be in a less lighted focus. This insists on the idea that these elements were not part of the main presentation that is being sent as a message through the painting. Putting them in a dimmer spectrum of the painting then represents them as mere spectators to what was happening between Ariadne and Bacchus. Using oil paint in canvas, Titian was able to show contrast perfectly this drawing the attention of the audience to what was specifically important in the image.

The painting originally made by Titian for the duke however did not make it in the modern world. The climate, the storage issues and others have caused the painting and the varnish that was glazed upon the painting to preserve its beauty have been washed out thus requiring heavy repainting operations to restore and recover the actual essence of the original work. It was necessary for the ones who rendered the changes on the painting to make sure that the original strokes were considered, the toning of colors and the separation of color hues be fully observed. Relatively, such conditions made it possible for the newly painted Bacchus and Ariadne to be painted in the National Museum in London. Critics of the art say that the original value of the painting by Titian cannot simply be represented by a restored art. Nevertheless, the one posted in the said museum is the one closest to the original. Several replicas of the said painting are now being released for selling in the market.

Among the common themes of artistic makeup presented in the painting is that of satyr. The dogs and the people were obviously not part of the story nor the novel that the painting represents. Nevertheless, they were added in the picture to create a definition on how the society back then appreciated stories like that of Bacchus and Ariadne. Giving the painting a classical feel not only of the theme it portrays but also that of the people representing the society back in the said era.

The portrayal of the one of the most important foundations of the beliefs of the people in the 1500’s is a highly defining value for the art made by Titian. Bacchus and Ariadne’s story has remained intact in novels and classical books that are still being released in the market today. Relatively, his painting does not only represent what the said beliefs are, it also creates a distinction on how the society then differs in recognizing the value of gods from the way the society today views the existence of a supreme being. The likening of the gods to the human characteristics specifically makes this painting more of a personal interpretation of the artist’s understanding with regards the most common elements of beliefs and norms during his time. Titian was then known to be very observant and bold in representing the people, their emotions and their thoughts in most of his art works. His definition of society and the way they react to the beliefs promoted in the 1500s was clearly depicted in this painting in a bit satiric manner.

References:
Bomford, David (1997). Conservation of Paintings. London: National Gallery Company.

Jaffé, David; et al. (2003). Titian. London: National Gallery Company.

Frank, P.L.(2010). Prebles’ Artforms [Chapter 5]. Pearson Publishing.

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