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Bacchus and Ariadne Titian: Critical Analysis

Bacchus and Ariadne
Tiziano Vecello, known in the English speaking world as Titian, was born in Cadore which is in the Southern Alps between the years of 1487 -1490. He was born into a family of lawyers and administrators and so enjoyed a relatively privileged upbringing. The early Sixteenth Century saw a flourishing in Italian art. Indeed, set against the span of Art History it was one of the greatest periods and is known by the term “Cinquecento[1]” and The Venetian Cinquecento masters included Giorgione and Titian. Titian, as a painter, pushed the boundaries of art and its meaning and challenged the pre eminence of the sculptural art form. His paintings are characterised by their ability to capture the qualities to be found in the subject through composition, technique and use of medium.
His early influences were seminal. Around 1500, and before he was ten years old, Titian was sent to Venice. He was initially destined to be an apprentice to a mosaicist, Zuccati, but when his master saw he had the ability to draw he was sent to work in a painting school. Titian found himself under the tutorage of the elderly Giovanni Bellini, who was the leading artist in Venice. Whilst working under the Bellinis – father and then son – Titian was exposed to the new influences that were to be found in the work of the Flemish painters especially in their use of oils and varnish glazes. Bellini softened his landscapes through the use of these techniques. Titian embraced these techniques during these formative years and it soon became apparent he possessed a rare talent eventually out shining his master.
The popular and accomplished masters in Venice heavily influenced Titian. As a teenager he worked with Giorgione and it is this influence that is evident in Titian’s early paintings, such as the ‘Gipsy Madonna’ in 1510. Four years after the death of Giorgione, Titian decided to start up his own workshop. His career went from strength to strength, precipitated in part by the commission of ‘The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ in the Frari Church. By the age of thirty, Titian was established as the leading artist in Venice; this granted him celebrity status with a European clientele, which included noblemen, merchants and eventually monarchs.
Titian started to attract the attention of famous Italian Patrons, such as the Renaissance family D’Este from Ferrara. The D’Este family originally commissioned ‘The Triumph of Bacchus’ to be painted by Raphael who had been paid in advance for the work but unfortunately Raphael had only completed a preliminary sketch before he died in 1520. This commission was then assumed by Titian and led to the production of five paintings that were to hang in the Camerino room, a private luxury apartment in the Ferrara Place. Titian was sought after and by an impressive list of patrons and esteemed clientele such as the Holy Roman Emperor, the Pope and Charles the 5th. Titian was now in a position to pick and choose his commissions. He was known as the “Lomazzo described him as the ‘sun amidst small stars not only among the Italians but all the painters of the world”[2]. An illustration of the esteem with which he was held is quoted by Titian’s early biographers “even the Emperor Charles V picked up the paint brush Titian had dropped[3]”.
Titian was as an outstanding draughtsman regarded on a par with Michelangelo’s genius. A milestone in Titian’s career was his appointment as a court painter. He became a member of the “Order of the Golden Spire[4]”, which gave him the rights of a courtier. Titian lived a long and prosperous life and died on the 27th of August 1576. He was laid to rest in the very church in Frari, which was home to his ‘The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary’. The very painting that marked the start of Titian’s glorious carrier as one of the most influential Venetian painters in Italian history.
One of Titian’s most remarkable paintings is hanging in The National Gallery in London. This is the painting of Bacchus and Ariadne, which was completed around 1520-23. This painting was commissioned by Duke Alfonso D’Este who ordered a set of five paintings for his private room in his palace at Ferrara. The series was known as one of the high points in Italian Renaissance art.
This diagram shows the exact location in the Camerino room where the painting of Bacchus and Ariadne (No 1) would have hung. Showing that the painting was above a door in the private room. It also illustrates that the painting would experience light through the window at dusk and dawn, illuminating the painting at the start and the end of the day. This would make it the focal point in the room, hung to its best advantage so that its owner, Alfonso D’Este could enjoy his passion and indulge his love for the Greek and Roman style of paintings. The other paintings in the room also commissioned by Titian are as follows: 1) Bacchus and Ariadne; 2) The Andrians; 3) The feast of the Gods; 4) Bacchanal with Vulcan and lastly the 5) is The Worship of Venus. Three of the five paintings are dedicated to exuberant feasts and falling in love. Titian derived most of his painting from Greek and Roman literature. The story of Bacchus and Ariadne was specifically drawn from the classical writers Ovid and Catullus. In fact Titian often depicted scenes that were inspired by Classical Mythology and that feature Bacchanalian scenes.
The painting illustrates the moment in classical myth when Ariadne is stranded on a desert island. Bacchus the god of wine is riding in his chariot when he stumbles across her. The picturesque landscape with the receding sea touching the magical coastline gracefully lends itself as a fitting backdrop to this magical, chance rendezvous. The painting depicts the moment the lovers meet for the first time:
“She, then, pitifully looking out at the receding boat,/ wounded, was spinning convoluted cares in her mind./ Then came swooping from somewhere Bacchus in his prime/ his cult of Satyrs, with his mountain-born Sileni,/ seeking you, Ariadne, aflame with love for you”[5].
This poem by Catullus, describes a covering on the royal marriage bed, embroidered with scenes from the legend. The King of Crete had a daughter named Ariadne. She is one of the main characters depicted in this painting on the left. She abandoned her home to follow the Athenian Theseus, with who she was in love. Although she had helped Theseus escape Crete and the ferocious wrath of the Minotaur, Theseus abandons Ariadne on this island of Naxons. His ship is still visible in the distance as he sails off. The ship acts as a symbol to the viewer of lost love. Naxos is where the painting is set and captures the moment that a new lover in the form of Bacchus the God of Intoxication enters her life. It is clear from the expression on Ariadne’s face that she is still grieving for Theseus but is also startled by the God of Inspiration and Intoxication accompanied by his Satyrs.
The story continues with Bacchus instantly falling in love with Ariadne and convincing her that if she will marry him, her wedding present will be that when she dies he will take her wedding diadem, raise it to the havens and turn it into a constellation in the sky. This symbolises their union. The stars that are visible above Ariadne’s head in the painting represent this.
This painting holds all the key elements of a joyful, energetic and manic love, which takes the traditional subject matter of art mythology and revitalises it. From looking at Bacchus we can see the intensity of his passion. The most shocking, unusual and visually interesting part of this picture is the way in which Bacchus is frozen in time and that his stare is tangible. The wild party and entourage seem to be paused in their frivolities, some critics think that this parallels a brief but paused moment in Titian’s own career.
Titian always manages to portray a sense of unity within his paintings even though his contemporaries at the time would have unfavourably judged his work and thought it disjointed, even going so far as to call it lopsided, a comment made about the portrait of a ‘Young Englishman’. But he managed to balance his pictures using light and colour and form and the result is he “fused beauty and harmony to marry with Greek and Roman antiquity[6]”. This fusion and unity is clear once the elements of this painting are broken down. The calm blue waters to the left of the painting balance the riotous satyrs and maenads who are carrying the symbols of Bacchus’ cult. He also used complimentary colours in this painting, red, green, blue and orange as it equalises the overall impact of the piece to the viewer. The painting is given depth and perspective by the use and colour of the sea surrounding Naxos. The deep blue is heightened by the orange complementarities, which stand in stark contrast to the reds and greens. Although the art form is often thought to be merely about colour, arrangement and drawing, Titian thought about the nature of what he was trying to depict. Titian was a master of vibrant exuberant Venetian colour and this painting is a glorious celebration of ‘colour balance’. This new way of thinking signified the shift of art into a new realm. Amongst his contemporaries Titian was seen to break the traditional rules of composition. This colour experimentation is seen in the painting of Ariadne, which almost gives the illusion that the painting is lit from behind, giving the feeling of luminosity. Titians skills and techniques are quite extraordinary and he can almost turn oil paint into flesh while strongly portraying the characters’ physical expressiveness.
It is thought that the satyr struggling with the snakes which is depicted in Bacchus and Ariadne is based on a classical sculpture discovered in 1506, ‘Laocoön’ in the Vatican.
There is much symbolism that can be derived from this picture in the National. There are the obvious clues that are distinctly visible to the viewer, such as the starry crown to the left of the picture and Theseus’ship. But there are also hidden meanings that can be coded from studying certain aspect of the picture. The frivolous company of maenads and stryrs that are carrying symbolic items that distinguish Bacchus’ cult. For instance the satyr that is covered in grapevines is waving a bull’s leg whilst the bacchante is waving a tambourine, adding to the sense of riotous joy and exothermic energetic excitement. The viewer can also see that these two members of the carnival are looking at each other, mirroring Bacchus and Ariadne. This rebellious, drunken procession is fuelled with power, aggression and a hint of violence shown by the severed calf’s head. As if the company have ripped the animal part in the state of frenzy. This calf’s head is being dragged by the baby satyr who is half man and half goat. He seems to be leading the procession but give the impression that he is not involved in the commotion. The formal leader of this rabble, Bacchus’s foster-father is depicted as the fat Silenus at the back. He is sleeping off his hangover whilst still rounded on his donkey. Silenus depiction injects humour into the painting, as we can see his companions trying to prevent him from falling off his donkey. These smaller figures add a sense of distance and the three bigger figures in the foreground, lead the eye backwards into the landscape as we follow the orthogonal lines resulting in a triangle of perspective and depth.
The Sixteenth Century marked a unique era in Venetian style painting, which stood in stark contrast to the traditional characteristics of design and draftmanship commonly found in Italian art. This new style, pioneered by Titan, focused on colour, light and sensuality. It was not just the new subject matter and pigments that were in this state of flux, Titian pioneered new techniques in oil painting. Venice was renowned for its damp, changeable climate and as a result the ancient practise of fresco painting was rendered almost impossible. This affected the painters’ artistic creativity, which resulted in Titian and his peers favouring oil paints on canvas rather than board. But it was in the use of oil that Titian surpassed all other painters. Titian also was able to draw upon the rich literature of the Ancients and he used its subjects as sources of inspiration as in another painting ‘Europa’ which was based upon the themes to be found in the Metamorphoses of Ovid extended by a contemporary of Titian’s the poet Poliziano. Titian gained from studying other artists and incorporated ideas from well-known pieces of classical sculpture. His painting of Bacchus and Ariadne is a triumph of artistic skill and composition with an iconic, freeze frame pose that is instantly recognisable. Through his work Titian is considered one of the most talented painters of the Italian Renaissance and his influence is to be found on painting throughout the subsequent centuries.
E.H. Gombrich. (1995) ‘The Story Of Art’: London: Phaidon.
Patrick De Rynck. ‘How to read a painting’, published by Thames and Hudson (London) July 2004.
B Cole. (1984) ‘From Pisano to Titian’: Boulder: Westview Press.
C.Hope, J Fletcher. J Dunkerton (2003) ‘Titian’: London National Gallery
P Humfrey ‘The Age of Titian’: Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland Visual Arts Film. (1989) ‘Great Artists – Titian.
Great Artists – Titian. Available at
[1] E.H.Gombrich The Story Of Art (1995) p287,329.
[2] Giovanni Boccaccio The famous final line of Dante’s Paradiso, Dante Alighieri 1308-1321,
[3] E.H.Gombrich The Story Of Art (1995) p331
[4] Great Artists-Titian, Televised Autobiography
[5] Catullus, The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis 64:249-264 trans. T.Banks.
[6] E.H.Gombrich The Story of Art (1995) p368.

Ritz-Carlton Hotel Organisation Culture

The ability to establish a culture that invokes high value for the people working in an organization invokes intrinsic sense of identity, innovativeness, creativity and commitment that forms the main recipe for ultimate sustainability of services and profitability. Organizations leaders and scholars concur that people are the most important elements in an organization because they not only articulate the established policies but innovatively contribute to their holistic improvements through sustained experiences. This paper provides an in-depth evaluation of The Ritz-Carlton hotel culture, challenges in changing it and key lessons that can be learned by other organizations.
i) Harrison-Handy model of organization culture
Though scholars appear divided over the actual definition of the term ‘organization culture’, they tend to agree that all organizations create unique operating systems that fit with their internal capacities and guided towards their objectives. The Ritz-Carlton organization culture can best be described through two subunits of the Harrison-Handy model. To begin with Mullin (2008, p. 21) explains that power culture reflects centrality of authority in a highly bureaucratic outline where orders define the expected targets based on the organization objectivity. On the other hand, the role culture creates a set of rules and guidelines that do not give employees the needed room for contributing to the management. Therefore, role and power culture as Aitken and Higgs (2010, pp. 109-111) concur with Campbell and Craig (2005, 491-493) provide a highly rigid mode of operation that obscures innovation while establishing barrier between the top management and junior staff.
ii) Master servant orientation
The Ritz- Carlton Hotel depicts a culture strongly based on master servant relationship where employees are expected to strictly follow the established code of conduct for the hotels. While expounding on Harrison-Handy model, Laurie (2007, p. 66) explains that though its application may be employed to create a less authoritative tone, the resulting cultural impacts remain unchanged. The notion of ‘ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen’ is a working slogan but a principle that employees cannot fully associate with. The establishment of ‘very precise’ standards for treating consumers makes the employees a form of puppet that must follow specific values and guidelines without deviating from them. Owing to the long period of success, the management in the hotel has solidified strict demand for personal traits that one should have for success in such an industry. The code of behavior in the hotel is well written down and managers take no chance in enforcing it (case). For instance, the smile is expected to come naturally (case).
iii) Discourages individual innovations and creativity
The Ritz- Carlton Hotel’s culture not only lacks the necessary room for innovation and creativity but strongly discourages their application. The aforementioned master servant relationship creates the view of inferiority to the employees; a consideration that largely discourages their voluntary input outside the management demands. The established values that have culminated to scripting expected behavior in the hotel, limits employees from introducing new concepts, ideologies or comparative connotations for improvements. Though the management has established a rewarding system, it might not invoke the necessary innovation due to lack of enough democratic space for them. As Harrison-Handy model of organization culture postulates, going against the established guidelines is often interpreted by the middle level managers to be a threat to them and therefore often scattered before considering it for implementation (Mullin, 2008, pp. 36-37). The managers in the hotel take nothing to chance and therefore emphasize on a fifteen minutes daily reminder of the expected code of conduct by the employees.
iv) Reduced capacity to initiate and propel change.
According to Mullin (2008, p. 31), organizations should embrace change that facilitates adoption of new management outsets to gather a competitive advantage over others and derive the expected sustainability. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel has maintained the key management and operation values that founders laid about a century ago (case). Though the hotel has been doing well, assimilation of change could have raised its current profitability to higher levels. Power culture in the Harrison-Handy model as William (2009, p. 541) indicates, fails to invoke the criticality of extended reference for change agents. As a result, the management becomes the sole source of visionary focus which reduces the overall ability to improve change strategies and creating identity with new propositions for all. It is from this consideration that the proposed changes in the year 2006 were seen to be a major deviation from the normal non-responsive operation mechanism in the hotel (case).
a) Why do you think this type of culture might be important to a luxury hotel?
Hospitality industry as Severt and Curtis (2008, pp. 121-122) explain, remains one of the most sensitive sectors and therefore demands greater care with critical assessments to beat the high competition. The Ritz- Carlton Hotels’ culture is therefore critical in a luxury hotel because it invokes better monitored coordination and maintenance of consistency in services delivery. By articulating strict rules and regulations that are unit-lined to customers’ satisfaction, luxury hotel is able to guarantee consumers the needed high quality services. Unlike in other sectors such as education, Severt and Curtis (2008, p. 125) add that hospitality industry require the luxury assurance taken to an even higher level.
Creating a strong central authority in the hospitality industry forms particularistic trends in the management and therefore avoiding the uncertainties brought about by change application. Though change articulation in an organization is projected towards improvement, Sinha (2008, p. 63) concurs with Chenhall and Euske (2007, p. 634) conclusion that its articulation may culminate to key discontinuities in services delivery. Indeed, to inculcate new ideologies, it may require an external change agent, additional costs and assimilation of new code of conduct which may take time before being fully assimilated.
Owing to the high sensitivity of hospitality industry, maintaining the power and role based culture reduces the possibility of creating many centers of authority experienced in other cultures. As a result, luxury hotels are able to maintain a highly responsive system to satisfy their clients and therefore sustain their repute and profitability.
b) What might be the drawbacks of such a culture?
Though the culture of power and role appear to work in luxury industry, it lacks the needed force for improvement. Most employees are enclosed in the roles procedures and within the established authority that suppress their personal contribution. The culture therefore lacks the needed checks that come inform of propositions for improvement either through comparison or visionary considerations. As Aitken and Higgs (2010, pp. 116-117) indicate, the culture lacks whole commitment of the employees since they do not identify with the authority, the institution or the rules laid for them. As a result, people under such cultures mostly act under pretense and therefore do not have the needed goodwill for the company. In such situations, Campbell and Craig (2005, p. 497) explain that they mostly contemplate shifting to other related occupations that appreciate them.
In power and role based culture, one evident problem is that people do not exploit their full potential. The Ritz- Carlton Hotel’s management has maintained a scripted behavioral conduct that is often reminded to the employees every day (case). The emphasis of such orientation creates the sense that the advocated methods are the best and therefore achieved results could not have been any better.
Campbell and Craig (2005, p. 490) argue that this culture is a key recipe for direct and indirect resistance by people in the organization. Though they might not directly indicate it due to fear of punitive measures, occurrence of trigger factors may be catastrophic. Particularly, simple conflicts may easily provide an outlet to the accumulated dissatisfaction; a consideration that could easily result to negative publicity and reduction in the overall profits.
a) Challenges in implementing the cultural change
Following a long time application of power and rule model in the company, the new culture might have encountered strong resistance to change. According to Kurt Lewin’s theory of organization change management, the freezing of the existing systems presents the existing managers authorities with a sense of loss as more autonomy is given to the lower level employees (Sinha, 2008, pp. 69-70). To the middle level managers, they resist this change to safeguard their roles (foreseeing application of the rules and supervising scripted behavior) because employees would have greater link with the top management while behavioral outsets would not require supervision.
To articulate the new model of management at The Ritz- Carlton Hotels, the employees lacked the needed skills to implement the needed changes. Owing to the long time application of the old power and role model, many employees might have lacked the expected expanded view in relation to the new autonomy. According to contingency theory, the internal and external environment interacts to derive the needed focus for higher profitability (Laurie, 2007, pp. 36-37). However, most employees in the hotel might have coiled and stuck to the old methods not due to resistance, but due to lack of immediate alternatives after being in a closed model for along time.
Unlike the old well scripted behavioral expectations, the new culture was hard coordinate and monitor at the beginning due to the high autonomy exercised by the people. According to Chenhall and Euske (2007, pp. 625-626), transformational leadership requires constant link and communication between the management and junior staff to maintain the needed bonding for greater cohesion. However, these bonds are built on trust, commitment and rewards in a system. Taking into consideration that this structure takes a lot of time to establish, changing the culture might have experienced partial discontinuity as teams and their operations, new reward schemes and communication modes were established.
b) Maintaining the new culture
In his view, William (2009, p. 537-539) explains that though changing an organization culture is the harder part of assimilating a new culture, its maintenance is very critical in that it determines the holistic sustainability of the company. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel maintained the better elements of the old system such as a happy guest driven by the services provided. As a result, the hotel was able to articulate the changes without negatively affecting the services provided to the consumers. In addition to that, the company increased the employees’ decision making autonomy and therefore encouraged naturally relaxed and innovative interaction with clients. According to transformation leadership theories, this autonomy and attachment to the management and operating system creates the needed identity for all; a consideration that invokes high creativity (Mullin, 2008, pp. 58-59).
According to Robert Maslow’s theory of motivation, people will always struggle to get to the next higher level in the hierarchy of needs and ultimately, to self actualization (Gomez-Mejia, David and Robert, 2008, p. 88). The Ritz-Carlton Hotel therefore created this upward shift by articulating a highly motivating environment for employees. According to Carmine (2008) the management has solidified the employees’ involvement in decision making and therefore creating the sense of stability and satisfaction to them. As a result, customer satisfaction becomes easy to link with higher sustainability of the monetary and other benefits that employees derive from the system.
One common aspect evident with new cultures that are people oriented is consideration for continued improvement. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel conducts frequent trainings to its employees to enrich their skills by creating new insights that are critical in maintaining high quality services to clients. According to American management Association (2008), The Ritz-Carlton Hotel’s management seeks highly experienced coaches and trainers in hospitality industry to impact new skills and therefore raisin the employees’ ability to make correct decisions in their duties.
The case of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel brings out the critical role played by an organization culture in defining and guiding its overall operations for sustaining of its profits. Employees were brought out to be a key element when defining the culture of an organization and must be involved at all levels. Though the power and role cultures saw the company reap high profits, it was a major obstacle towards achievement higher level customer satisfaction and profitability. Employees could not go beyond the scripted behavioral demands.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel’s case further brings out the need for continued improvement in an organization as a critical cultural facet towards remaining relevant and therefore ahead of other competitors. Through cooperation of employees and management it is possible to maintain high level services for the clients. When employees get the sense that their management has bestowed high trust on them, they take greater responsibility oriented towards surpassing the set goals in a company’s objectives. From the case, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel services remained unchanged even after withdrawing the highly authoritative culture.
In any change articulation, organizations must recognize that there will always be some resistance and therefore must be effectively prepared to counter it. To concur with Severt and Curtis (2008, pp. 121-123) view, it is critical that organizations facilitate the change orientation in a manner that brings all the people aboard and therefore creating a highly acceptable final product. In a freezing-refreezing model, organizations must create the roadmap largely based on communication that facilitates addressing inherent concerns. Besides, organizations must take change to be a process and therefore expect it to take time before the actual results are identified.
Though changing the culture is the ultimate choice, organizations must seek to incorporate the necessary ideals while creating a room for later improvement. The assimilated change model must be able to place the organization in a mobile note where both the employees and the management do not view the achievement of the positive results to be the end, but establish considerations to take the achievements step higher. Through professional training, teamwork and comparative orientations, organizations can be able to remain highly competitive and thereby maintaining high profitability.
From the above conclusion, this paper concludes by supporting the thesis statement, ‘the ability to establish a culture that invokes high value for the people working in an organization invokes intrinsic sense of identity, innovativeness, creativity and commitment that forms the main recipe for ultimate sustainability of services and profitability.’ It came out from the discussion that though The Ritz-Carlton Hotel had high returns, its power and role culture poorly invoked innovativeness and creativity. By effectively addressing the challenges evidenced by change application, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel was able to achieve the same results it achieved previously. Organizations seeking to change their cultures should therefore seek to incorporate people’s contribution to create the sense of continued improvement and thereby raise their profitability and sustainability.