16th Century Mythology

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Analyse and interpret three sixteenth-century works of art depicting mythological subjects. You may choose your examples from painting and/ or sculpture.

Mythological subjects were very popular amongst artists/ sculptors during the 16th century. This was predominately as a result of humanist education amongst artists and the ever so increasing rise of educated patrons; who valued the philosophy of Neo-platonism. The mythological subjects depicted were usually scenes of gods and goddess’, as this linked back to classical antiquity; a characteristic that was key in the High Renaissance. Mythology was also able to convey allegorical images and gave context of the past. The works of art I have chosen to discuss are Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne, Cranach’s Cupid complaining to Venus and Giambologna’s Mercury.

Bacchus and Ariadne, was one of three works commissioned by Alfonso d’Este for his private apartments. Painted in 1523-4, Titian depicts Bacchus (the god of wine) and his followers on return from India, celebrating their win in war. Titian shows this celebration through the movement of the figures, which suggest they are dancing and drinking. For example, Bacchus rides in on a chariot lead by two cheetahs, followed by the intoxication of his revellers behind him. This movement occurs in a diagonal direction, where the figures come forward into the foreground, suggesting speed and excitement. The cheetahs not only symbolise the athleticism of Bacchus, which is also emphasised by his pose but it shows that Titian has used contemporary sources to enhance his representation of antiquity by painting the cheetahs from d’Este’s private zoo, instead of from his own imagination.

Whilst on Islands of Naxos they discover Ariadne who has been deserted by Theseus; his ship can been seen in the distance, on the left hand side, behind Ariadne. Bacchus is shown leaping…...

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