Saturday, 15 August 2020

ars amatoria

From BBC Culture, we learn that classic art is not always just academic soft-core pornography, it can also be high-brow, heuristic potty humour, as exemplified in Titian’s masterpiece Bacchus and Ariadne (see previously)—capturing the moment of love-at-first-site when the god of revelry and his entourage chances on a freshly heartbroken maiden abandoned on the island of Naxos by her beloved Theseus rendered in a transfixing image that nonetheless has an underlying allegory that includes all the corporeal awkwardness that we’d otherwise choose to suspend.
In the foreground directly beneath Bacchus dismounting his chariot born by a pair of regal cheetahs, there is a child satyr and a caper flower, the twain representing the curse of excessive flatulence and the carminative remedy for it. Given that contemporaries also had truck with this patois, one needs to take this symbolism into account when appreciating the diorama and wonder what other mortal perils that even the body of a god might be prone to—especially one of perpetual drunkenness. Looking less relieved for being rescued the longer that one studies her, John Keats cites Ariadne in his poem “Ode to a Nightingale” written when the work was first acquired by the National Gallery—“Away! away! For I will fly to thee [the ship of Theseus still visible in the harbour], Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards!”