Analysis of Bust of Ariadne

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Object Analysis: Bust of Ariadne

This terracotta bust depicts Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos of Crete, who helped Theseus through the labyrinth. It is 61 cm tall, hand scuplted, and has traces of paint indicating it was once fully painted. It was found in Falerii Novi, Italy. The sculpture was done in the Classical Etruscan style, being heavily influenced by Greek and Roman art.

The bust is made of terracotta, which was a common material for the Etruscans. The hair is finely detailed, as is the drapery of her clothing. The face is naturalistic as well, athough she has a very stoic expression in contrast to the motion shown by the rest of the figure. She may have been making an 'unveiling' gesture, which was shown often in Greek art depicting holy marriages. This statue was probably made to be placed on top of a temple, as the Etruscans tended to do. The temple itself then may have been one to bless couples in marriage. It could also have just been showing the marriage between Dionysus and Ariadne, as the bust has vine leaves and grapes in her hair which were both symbols of Dionysus. In mythology, Dionysus demands Ariadne from Theseus, and she goes on to give birth to the gods of wine and grapes. That may mean the temple this statue was placed on could have been to worship Dionysus. The Etruscans worshiped Dionysus, who they called Pacha, and he is shown on much of their art. They may have held him especially dear, as he is not only the god of wine and merriment, but also of prosperity. This bust was likely made in the Orientalizing period, where the Etruscans borrowed from Greek mythology, but was also the most prosperous time for them. It's possible that this figure was part of a set, and Dionysus would likely also be on top of the same temple. The temple therefore could have been one where the Etruscans would go to pay homage to Dionysus and his divine family and to pray for continued prosperity.

Astier, Marie-Bénédicte. "Female Bust:...
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