Ariadne Asleep On The Island Of Naxos

Object Number: 
ca. 1811-1831
Oil on canvas
frame: 72 1/2 x 90 1/2 x 2 in. (72 1/2 x 90 1/2 x 2 in.) canvas: 70 x 86 cm (27 9/16 x 33 7/8 in.)
Oil on canvas study for painting depicting Ariadne asleep, naked and abandoned by Theseus.
Gallery Label: 
John Vanderlyn, the grandson of the Colonial painter Pieter Vanderlyn (1687-1778), was sent to Europe to further his studies by his patron Aaron Burr (1756-1836). Vanderlyn favored classical subjects from Greek mythology, and this painting depicts the daughter of King Minos of Crete, Ariadne, who fell in love with the Athenian Theseus. She sailed with him to Naxos, where he abandoned her as she lay sleeping. Vanderlyn may have produced this copy of his original Ariadne (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts), which was exhibited in Paris in 1812, in anticipation of a successful reception after his return to America in 1815. However, Ariadne's nudity caused a scandal and the painting remained unsold. In 1831 Vanderlyn sold both the original and the unfinished copy to Asher B. Durand, who made a smaller copy (Metropolitan Museum of Art) for his engraving of 1835. Combining classical references and a female nude conformed to the tastes of Napoleaonic France, but there was a further motivation - a financial one - for Vanderlyn's choice of subject. In Philadelphia the exhibition of a female nude by Adolph Ulrich Wertmuller brought him notoriety and a sizeable income. Although nudity in art was publicly protested by Americans, Vanderlyn observed that they would pay to see pictures of which they disapproved.
Credit Line: 
Gift of Mrs. Lucy Maria Durand Woodman
Provenance: Mrs. Lucy M. Durand Woodman, daughter of A.B. Durand Asher B. Durand Collection, purchased directly from the artist (December 5, 1831) for $50.
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group