Bacchus Discovering Ariadne

late 1640s


121 x 127.3 cm (47 5/8 x 50 1/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas

On View

William I. Koch Gallery (Gallery 250)





Jordaens shared the same teacher as Peter Paul Rubens and later collaborated with him. The painters share an ideal of physical beauty based on voluptuous figures whose expressive poses reinforce the narrative. Ariadne, princess of Crete, has been deserted on the Island of Naxos by Theseus, the Athenian prince whom she had helped escape from her father’s labyrinth. Bacchus, the god of wine, and his satyrs discover her, and Bacchus falls in love. As a testimony to his devotion, he holds aloft her crown, which he will toss into the heavens to create a constellation in her honor.


July 18, 1753, anonymous sale, the Hague, lot 18, sold for 28 fl. 1768, Johan van Nispen, the Hague; September 12, 1768, van Nispen sale, the Hague, lot 3, to Pieter Terwesten, the Hague, for 80 fl. [see note 1]. August Gottfried Schwalb (b. 1741 - d. 1777), Hamburg; 1779, posthumous Schwalb sale, Hamburg, lot 269. Philippe Panné (d. by 1819), London [see note 2]; March 26-29, 1819, posthmous Panné sale, Christie's, London, lot 69, to Emmerson for £3.13 [see note 3]. Mrs. Whitehead, the Vicarage, Alford, Lincolnshire. 1953, Alfred Scharf, London; 1953, sold by Scharf to the MFA for $5000. (Accession Date: April 2, 1954)

[1] Peter C. Sutton, The Age of Rubens (exh. cat. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1994), p. 356, cat. no. 47, records Terwesten as the buyer. For the 1753 and 1768 sales, see Pieter Terwesten, Catalogus of Naamlyst van Schilderyen... (The Hague, 1770; Soest, 1976), pp. 80 and 670. [2] Philippe Panné was a Flemish art dealer living in London. It is not known how he acquired this painting, though he is known to have employed agents in Flanders, Paris, and Italy. The posthumous sale included all of his remaining stock. [3] Following the 1819 sale, the MFA painting may have continued to appear on the London art market. It might be identical to one or more Jordaens paintings of Bacchus and Ariadne with Satyrs that appeared in seven London auction sales between 1809 and 1835. Without the dimensions or descriptions of these works, however, it is not possible to identify any with the MFA painting unequivocally.

Credit Line

M. Theresa B. Hopkins Fund