Painting Explorers: Bacchus and Ariadne

Falling in love!

This painting was one of a very famous series by Bellini, Titian and Dosso Dossi – three really famous artists. It was commissioned for the Camerino d’Alabastro (Alabaster Room) in the Ducal Palace, Northern Italy. 

If you know a bit about Greek Mythology, then check this out. It’s a painting showing Bacchus, the god of wine, with his followers on the right.

He suddenly falls in love with Ariadne on the left after seeing her, so he leaps from his chariot at her, drawn by two cheetahs!

Ariadne has been abandoned on the Greek island of Naxos by Theseus, who defeated the Minotaur on the island of Crete – you can see his ship in the distance sailing away. Bacchus raised her up to heaven and turned her into a constellation, you can just see the stars above her head.

Here’s Ariadne, rapping her story.
I mean I was upset, not gonna lie,
When Theseus left me high and dry.
He sailed off on his ship – you can see it in the corner
All my friends said Ariadne, don’t say we didn’t warn ya!
So yeah I was sad, even though this island is hot,
But alone and so lonely – well hot it is NOT!
So I’m there feeling sad and wondering why
I looked at his pictures and started to cry
When I hear something coming and it’s getting quite loud,
With cymbals and satyrs – a gigantic crowd!
Bacchus and his mates appear – Bacchus is well cute
They’re laughing and singing – he’s one handsome brute.
There’s a party on his chariot – which is pulled by two cats!
Well, technically cheetahs – I mean how cool is that?
What up girl he says, then he’s like OMG
Falls over his cheetahs just looking at me
Now the cheetahs aren’t happy
And his mates are all screaming
But Bacchus is looking like he is still dreaming
The cheetahs start growling and I’m getting a hunch,
I’m gonna end up as some cheetah’s lunch.
And check this out. He says that he’s fallen in LOVE.
Right then and there with ME! Heavens above!
And he said “Heaven’s above” is where you should be
And it might stop my cheetah’s eating you up for tea
With the stars in the heaven – you beautiful star
I’m gonna put you up there like the star you are.
I don’t know how he did it – some kind of Dynamo
And whoosh in a moment up to the heavens I go
So there is a happy ending to this love story – the sweetest in the nation
‘Cos not every guy turns his girl into a constellation!

Have a go at creating a song or rap about this painting!

See if you can sing or rap to Ariadne’s story above!

Think about the speed of the music – will it be slow or fast? Will it be a sad song or a happy one? Read it aloud it and see!

How about creating your own music first?

What kind of sounds would you try and recreate – the sound of the sea, the twinkling of the stars, the growls of the cheetahs, the distant laughter of  Bacchus’ party behind him? Would you try and include some melodies?

Come up with your own song!

Write down the lyrics first. Will it have a chorus? What would you include in the versus? Use a thesaurus to help you rhyme words. Have a go!

Click on a painting below to explore more!

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 NG_logo_blackPainting Explorers in association with The National Gallery