Ringstone with Bacchus and Ariadne
circa first century AD
Dimensions: 1.9 cm L
Provenance: Private Collection, Hungary.
The Property of a Hungarian Nobleman; Ancient, Mediæval and Modern Gems, Sotheby’s, London, 9 May 1949, lot 40.
Forrer, acquired from the above.
Giorgio Sangiorgi (1886-1965), Rome, acquired and brought to Switzerland by 1965; thence by descent.
Depicted on this rich carnelian stone is the moment the wine-god Dionysos rescues the distraught Ariadne, abandoned on the island of Naxos by her lover Theseus, and carries her to Olympos to be his wife, promising her eternal immortality. Both are depicted nude save for some diaphanous drapery. The god faces forwards, holding a beribboned thyrsus in his right hand, whilst his consort gazes at him adoringly, one hand raised to her hair. The ancient Roman precious stone has been mounted as a ring in a nineteenth century gold setting.
Fresco panel depicting Dionysos and Ariadne, first century AD, J. Paul Getty Museum, inv. no. 83.AG.222.3.1.
The subject of Bacchus and Ariadne was popular in both Greek and Roman art in many different media, although is relatively rare in gems. A similar composition of the pair is depicted on a Roman fresco, now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu (see, left). The choice to depict this particular episode from myth points to the desire to harness the wine-god’s unrestrained freedom and happiness brought on from wine, as well as the promise of eternal salvation.
For the cast of a now-lost glass cameo with a similar scene, J. Boardman, et al., The Marlborough Gems, Formerly at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire (Oxford, 2009), no. 477; and C. Gasparri, ‘Dionysos/Bacchus’, in LIMC, vol. III, no. 194, for a glass gem in Munich which depicts the pair standing under a pergola of grape vines.