Analysis Of CompositionThe Art Of Painting - Analysis Of Composition - 1, a brief series of articles on the art of painting and drawing
I have selected for this purpose Titian's " Bacchus and Ariadne," a very complicated design ; and if I succeed in bringing home to you the main points in its construction, simpler themes should present to you few difficulties.
The canvas is an unusually square one. The main upper line of the groups is convex—an arc—which in the rough outline sketch is indicated by the arrow-heads, which describe also the general convexity of the base line.
The secondary lines flow to the curves of the crowning drapery. The dots indicate their course, on the one hand starting from the folds of the flying drapery, curving through the right arm of Bacchus, along the arm of the satyr with the snakes, towards the centre, through his upper leg, to the lighted foot of the Bacchante, and so on to the dog. This line is picked up through the arms and back of the hinder satyr, taken through the upheld leg of the calf ; it then descends across the small Silenus, and again up through the curved arm with the tambourine.
On the Ariadne side there is a moral connection between the crowning lines and the folds of the blue dress, which are turned the reverse way and upwards, to the hand that gathers them.
The central group as a mass—detached from the Ariadne and the back figures—is shaded in the sketch, and is pyramidal in its generalised outline, and within that mass is another beautiful shape marked by the .oblique shaded lines, of the group made up of the snake-charmer, the Bacchante with the timbrels, the little satyr, and the dog ; extended towards the bronze vase.
Let us try to appreciate the part the little satyr plays. Firstly, without him the picture would be cut in two, and the perpendicular made by the tree, the uplifted arm with the timbrel, and the lighted leg of the central Bacchante, would check the forward movement into the picture, and there would be a somewhat objectionable block contained within its boundary and the upright of the frame.
Now what does our little friend do ? He conducts this recalcitrant group across the Rubicon, and, aided by the light fold of the golden drapery that flaps out behind his little head, he becomes part of the foreground group of three, amplifying and thereby beautifying its form.
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