Ariadne abandoned by Theseus, by Agostino Scilla (1629-1700).

Oil on canvas, unlined, 185cm by 152.5cm.
Signed: AVG: Scjlla/Ro: f.

In Greek myth, Ariadne helped Theseus to slay the Minotaur and escape from the labyrinth of Minos. 

They eloped, but Theseus later abandoned her on the island of Naxos.

The painting was purchased by John, 5th Earl of Exeter (1648-1700) whilst on the grand Tour.

It is listed in the 1688 Burghley Inventory: ‘The Bedd Chamber next ye Gallery Roomes …2 Pictures over the Doores being the Storyes of }by Augustin Scilla, Rome.’

Scilla painted several church frescoes in his native Sicily before working in Turin and Rome, where he studied with Andrea Saachi (1599-1661).

Whilst living in Sicily he had formed a deep interest in fossils, which he had found in the hills near his home and which he studied closely.

He amassed his own fine collection and became one of the first people to argue for a scientific explanation for them.


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