The picture of the bacchante who stands motionless and stares into space must have been well known. Catullus is thinking of her when he tells of the abandoned Ariadne, who follows her faithless lover with sorrowing eyes as she stands on the reedy shore ‘like the picture of a maenad.’ Indeed, melancholy silence becomes the sign of women who are possessed by Dionysus. […]
Madness dwells in the surge of clanging, shrieking, and pealing sounds, it dwells also in silence. The women who follow Dionysus get their name, maenads, from this madness. Possessed by it, they rush off, whirl madly in circles, or stand still, as if turned to stone.
Walter F. Otto, “Dionysus - Myth and Cult” (1933)
Ariadne. Sir Joshua Reynolds (English, 1723-1792). Oil on canvas.
Reynolds painted a number of so-called ‘subject pictures,’ in which he depicted his sitters in the guise of heroes and heroines from literature and mythology. The present sitter, once erroneously identified as Miss Elizabeth Ingram, is portrayed as Ariadne, a beautiful heroine of Greek mythology who is best known for helping Theseus overcome the Minotaur in Crete.
Ariadne, a daughter of King Minos of Krete (Crete), assisted Theseus in his quest to slay the Minotaur and then fled with the hero aboard his ship. When they landed on the island of Naxos Theseus abandoned her as she slept. It was then that Dionysos discovered her and made her his wife. // 1, 2
i. Asterion’s body falls silently to the ground everything stops and falls quiet in the labyrinth
ii. the sword glistens in the setting sun silver metal with rusty blood Theseus shivers
iii. Ariadne weeps for her fallen brother tears hot like acid on his chest fists clenched around his shoulders the labyrinth weeps too bushes swaying softly in a tender song Theseus watches from afar with a heavy heart
iv. Ariadne grabs the sword ravished, silver and red she will never forgive him
v. Theseus realizes, too late, what will come
vi. he tries to hide but the labyrinth traps him inside bushes growing out of rotten earth Ariadne slays him and drags his head to the entrance of the labyrinth his blood a red tread a warning
vii. Asterion has never been the monster after all