Dionysus finds sleeping Ariadne on the island of Naxos
Fresco of the Fourth style. 60—79 CE. Pompeii, Archaeological Park, House of the Vettii (VI. 15. 1. p)Photo by Francesco Gasparetti (Sailko)

Dionysus finds sleeping Ariadne on the island of Naxos.

Fresco of the Fourth style. 60—79 CE.

Pompeii, Archaeological Park, House of the Vettii (VI. 15. 1. p)
(Pompei, Parco Archeologico, Casa dei Vettii (VI. 15. 1. p)).

Excavated 1894—1895. North exedra-pinacotheca, central picture of the south wall.

Dionysus rescues Ariadne on Naxos

Ariadne, asleep on the skin of a panther or tiger and covered with a green cloth, leans her upper body on a white cushion with red and yellow stripes. We see her from behind, as she rests her head on her right upper arm with her left arm crooked over her head. This crooked arm is the ancient gesture of “erotic repose”. Over her we see the figure of Hypnos (Sleep), who holds a golden cup in his left hand while holds a branch in his right hand to sprinkle the sleeping Ariadne. The head is especially expressive, with all of Hypnos’ attention on the branch in his right hand.

After Ariadne helped Theseus escape from the labyrinth, he abandoned her on the island of Naxos. His ship sails off in the upper right. Dionysus and his retinue discover her sleeping; the god falls in love with her and makes her his consort. Dionysus, wearing a long robe and carrying the thyrsus, has Silenus at his side, with two small Satyrs at Silenus’ feet. Behind Ariadne a young Satyr crowned with pine lifts the cloth that covers her and looks back at Dionysus while he raises his left arm in excitement. Between the Satyr and Dionysus are two Maenads. At the right a promontory extends out to the sea, with a circular tower at its end. Theseus’ boat escapes to the left of the tower.

The many devotees of Dionysus saw in this image salvation and perhaps even the hope of life after death. Especially for women devotees Ariadne’s good fortune in attracting the god was a model of the god’s devotion to them.

A god appears on earth and rescues a woman. This woman is loved by a god, admitted to the gods, achieves immortality, and marries a god. This same god (Dionysus) punishes Pentheus in central picture, east wall, of room n. The right-hand picture in room d shows Theseus abandoning Ariadne. A guest of the Vettii with a good visual memory would recognize these connections and could construct an interesting picture interpretation (ekphrasis) from these three Dionysian images.

John R. Clarke (2007)
(cc) 2019. Photo: Francesco Gasparetti (Sailko) / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).
© 2007. Description: The house of the Vettii, Pompeii: an interactive visit — CD-ROM bundled with John R. Clarke, Roman Life: 100 B.C. to A.D. 200. Abrams, New York, 2007.
2021. Add. information: https://pompeiiinpictures.org.
Keywords: ζωγραφικήί pictura ars picturae painting pittura malerei peinture ελληνική μυθολογία mythologia graeca greek mythology mitologia greca griechische mythologie grecque ρωμαϊκή romana roman römische romaine διώνυσος dionysus dioniso dionysos σάτυρος σάτυροι satyros satyroi satur saturus satyr satyrs satiro satiri satyrn satyre satyres σειληνός seilenos silenus sileni selenus papposilenus silenuses sileno papposileni silenos silen papposilen silène papposilène θησεύς θησέας theseus teseo thésée ἔρως έρως eros éros amor cupid amore cupido amour ρωμαϊκές romano romani römisch römisches römischen römischer romain romains romaines ἀριάδνη αριάδνη ariadna ariadne arianna ariane βάκχος bacchus bacco ὕπνος ύπνος hypnos ipno πομπηία pompeii pompeian pompei pompeiano pompeji pompeianischen pompejanischen pompéi pompéien τέταρτο στυλ fourth style iv quarto stile vierte vierter stil quatrième φρεσκογραφία τοιχογραφία νωπογραφία wall fresco frescos frescoes opera parietale murale opere parietali murali affresco affreschi freskomalerei frischmalerei wandmalerei fresko fresken fresque fresques pintura mural domus vettiorum vettii vettius vettia house of the vi 15 1 casa dei haus der vettier maison des tirso thyrse thyrsus θύρσος thyrsos tambourine tamburello tamburin tambourin ντέφι ivy wreath corona di edera efeukranz couronne de lierre hedera στεφάνι κισσού skin panther pardalide pardalis cloak mantello mantel manteau μανδύα gold golden d’oro goldene goldener d’or d’ors χρυσός χρυσή χρυσό χρυσαφένιος χρυσαφένια χρυσαφένιο band ribbon fillet tenia tänie binden tænia ténia taenia tainia ταινία patera reclining reclinabile reclinabili reclinata liegend inclinable ανακλινόμενα shoulder bracelet armlet bracciale braccialetto spalla schulter-armband armspange d’épaule armilla winged alato geflügelt ailé alatus alata φτερωτό rock roccia rupe felsen rocher βράχος ship vessel nave schiff navire navis πλοίο pillow cuscino kissen polster oreiller pulvinus μαξιλάρι sleeping sleep addormentato addormentata sonno dormiente schlafende schlafenden schlafender schlafendes schlaf schlafen endormi endormie sommeil somnus ύπνο ύπνου cup bowl coppa becher schale coupe pine pino pinea nasso naxos νάξος tower torre turm tour πύργος seascape coastal landscape paesaggio marino marittimo costiero seelandschaft küstenlandschaft paysage marin côtier lighthouse faro della leuchtturm phare la cone strobilo cono pigna zapfen cône strobilus κώνος aspergillum cymbal cymbala cembalo cembali kymbala cymbale cymbalum κύμβαλον κύμβαλα half-naked seminude seminuda halbnackte à moitié nue tympanum tympanon τύμπανον abandoned forsaken abbandonata verlassene abandonnée in situ gesture erotic repose gesto riposo erotico geste erotischen ruhe erotische repos érotique p