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De draad van Ariadne by Constant

New arrival at Olla Art is a beautiful etching with aquatint by Constant from 1983, entitled ‘De draad van Ariadne’ (Ariadne’s thread). The work is described as number 134 and depicted full-page in the impressive reference work of Constant’s graphic work (Philippe Dagen & Trudy van der Horst, Constant Grafiek, Zwolle: Waanders Uitgevers & Editions Cercle d’Art, 2004, p. 155). And of course the work can also be found on the website of the Stichting Constant.

The myth
The etching refers to the story of Ariadne’s thread from Greek mythology. In this myth, King Minos rules the Athenians.

Minos has ordered that, at nine-year intervals, seven unarmed Athenian boys and girls be sacrificed to the Minotaur, who resides in a labyrinth on Crete. The Minotaur is a hideous monster, half man, half bull, and Theseus, son of King Aegeus, has volunteered to end this slaughter.

Constant, De draad van Ariadne, 1983
Constant, De draad van Ariadne, 1983
Etching with aquatint, 29.8 x 23.5 cm


Theseus takes the place of one of the youths to be sacrificed and sets off in a ship with a black sail to Crete. He has promised his father, who has badly let him go, that in case of a successful mission, he will return with a white sail.

When Theseus arrives on Crete, Ariadne, daughter of King Minos, falls in love with him. She secretly provides Theseus with a sword, which he puts under his clothes, and a tangle of thread, which he can unwind on his way to the monster, so that he can find his way out of the labyrinth. Theseus promises that if he returns from the labyrinth, he will take Ariadne with him.
He attaches one end of the thread to the post of the entrance door of the labyrinth, and after some time reaches the heart of the labyrinth, where the minotaur resides. A terrible fight ensues, in which the strong Theseus finally, with the help of his sword, manages to kill the minotaur. Thanks to Ariadne’s thread, he finds the labyrinth’s entrance and leaves Crete with Ariadne and her sister Phaedra, and the spared young Athenians. During a stopover on the island of Naxos, however, he has to leave Ariadne behind for Dionysus, who rules Naxos, and claims her.

Sick with grief, Theseus forgets to put up the white sails, leading Aegeus, his father, to think he has lost his life. He commits suicide by throwing himself off a cliff, into the sea, a sea that has since been named the Aegean Sea.

Old collection
‘De draad van Ariadne’ is framed in the original frame from 1984, the year in which the etching was purchased by the Blaricum art collector from whose collection it comes. The original purchase invoice is present. If desired, the frame can be replaced by Olla Art.

More information about ‘De draad van Ariadne’ can be found here. Other work by Constant, as well as a short biography, can also be found at Olla Art. For more information about Constant’s total oeuvre, we refer to the website of the Stichting Constant.