Sleeping Ariadne: the calm before the storm

In Greek mythology, Ariadne is the daughter of Minos, the King of Crete. She falls madly in love with Theseus, and gives him the ball of thread that later allows him to escape the labyrinth after killing the Minotaur. She elopes with him to Athens. But he abandons her, asleep, on the island of Naxos.

This 3rd-century-BC statue of her, asleep – a Roman copy of a Hellenistic work – is currently on display in Room 35 of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

According to legend, as she awoke from her deceitful sopor, Ariadne caught a glimpse of her lover on a boat at the horizon.

Catullus, in “64. Of the Argonauts and an Epithalamium for Peleus and Thetis”, voices her desperation at the sight: “False Theseus, is this why you take me from my father’s land, / faithless man, to abandon me on a desert shore? / Is this how you vanish, heedless of the god’s power, / ah, uncaring, bearing home your accursed perjuries? / Nothing could alter the measure of your cruel mind? / No mercy was near to you, inexorable man, / that you might take pity on my heart? / Yet once you made promises to me in that flattering voice, / you told me to hope, not for this misery / but for joyful marriage, the longed-for wedding songs, / all in vain, dispersed on the airy breezes. / Now, no woman should believe a man’s pledges, / or believe there’s any truth in a man’s words: / when their minds are intent on their desire, / they have no fear of oaths, don’t spare their promises…”

Ariadne will soon open her eyes to pain and anger: let’s watch her sleep, then, in the calm before the storm.

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Sleeping Ariadne: the calm before the storm

Florence - Uffizi Gallery
Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6
+39 055 2388651

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