(b. 1518, Venezia, d. 1594, Venezia)

Bacchus, Venus and Ariadne

Oil on canvas, 146 x 167 cm
Palazzo Ducale, Venice

Four almost square paintings by Tintoretto, Bacchus, Venus and Ariadne; Minerva Sending Away Mars from Peace and Prosperity; Vulcan's Forge; Mercury and the Graces) are set in stucco frames and arranged symmetrically on the walls of the Sala dell'Anticollegio in the Palazzo Ducale. Originally they were on the walls of the Atrio Quadrato (Square Anteroom) in the same palace. The four works have mythological or allegorical subjects and were originally part of a compact program to celebrate the good government of Doge Gerolamo Priuli. The figures and landscapes enshrine images of concord and prosperity and are classical in inspiration. The paintings were meant by the author to extol the unity and glory of the Venetian Republic.

In Bacchus, Venus and Ariadne, Bacchus arrives from the sea with his wreath and skirt of vine leaves, bearing a bunch of grapes and a ring. Among her rocks and drapes, Ariadne feebly extends her ring finger as an airborne Venus crowns her with stars. Ariadne - discovered by Bacchus on the island of Naxos and crowned by Venus to be received amongst the gods - stands for Venice, born on the sea, graced by divine favour and crowned by freedom. The imagery suggests the mythical marriage of Venice with the sea.