Apart from helping to distract attention from the arc of the main group, let us see what is the function of the Bacchante with the tambourine. Her arm doubles the line of the group in front of her, thus enriching it. She is a connecting link that takes the eye on to the distant Silenus, thereby adding fresh planes to the grouping ; and her echoing of the timbrels gives to the picture the music that is in it, for one musician would hardly impress us as a very full orchestra.<< Previous page
The trees are finely disposed ; the foliage against the sky directs the eye towards Ariadne, and the doubling of the stems imparts a fulness. One alone, like the single musician, would not be satisfying. The cumulus cloud on the left carries over in a similar manner to the foliage the interest from the other side of the canvas.
All shapes should make a pleasant pattern, whether in their silhouettes or in the masses left between them. See how beautiful is the passage of sky between the arm of Bacchus and the tree.
By comparing the half-tone reproduction with the outline sketch, you will see more clearly the importance of the arbitrary shadows and tones—those, for instance, across the leopards whose forms are merged into the shadowed background ; and with reason, for had they been fully lighted and clearly outlined, they would have arrested attention and spoilt the tete-a-tete between the chief actors.
Just those passages in the picture have been illuminated where the eye is asked to wander, the rest being discreetly shaded.
The little isolated white cloud aids the arc and the agitation, and the sweeping horizontals divide up into a decorative pattern the otherwise heavy mass of blue sky.
These are a few of the thoughts that have been at work in the construction of this masterpiece ; and I hope the analysis is not too confusing for you to realise some of the enormous difficulties that the making of so perfect a work entails.
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