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According to Ovid’s 'Metamorphoses' (VIII, 169–182), Ariadne, daughter of King Minos of Crete, helped Theseus to slay the Minotaur and escape the labyrinth, only to be abandoned by him on the island of Naxos. Bacchus rescued her, took her jewelled crown and threw it into the heavens, where it became a constellation. He married her soon afterwards. Ariadne in Greuze’s picture is characteristically shown lamenting her lost love before being comforted by the new. Her crown of stars may refer to the constellation named after her as well as to the divine nature of love as expressed by Greuze in his letter to Prince Yussupov in 1790 (cf. Greuze P398). A late work, loose in handling and exaggerated in expression, it may be identified with the Ariane dans l’île de Naxos exhibited at the Salon of 1804.

The Wallace Collection







oil on mahogany panel


H 49 x W 42.8 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

acquired by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford, 1849; bequeathed to the nation by Lady Wallace, 1897

Work type



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The Wallace Collection

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