“Diana and Actaeon” by Titian
“Diana and Actaeon” by Titian depicts the moment of surprise when the young hunter named Actaeon, unwittingly stumbles on the naked goddess Diana who is enjoying a bath in a spring with help from her escort of nymphs. The nymphs scream in surprise and attempt to cover Diana, who, in a fit of fury, splashes water upon Actaeon. As a mortal man, he is transformed into a deer with antlers and promptly flees in fear.
The myth of Diana and Actaeon can be found within Ovid’s Metamorphoses which recounts the unfortunate fate of Actaeon, who after fleeing as a deer is track down by his own hounds and killed because they failed to recognise their master. The story became popular in the Renaissance and has been depicted by many artists.
The artist of this masterpiece, Titian was the most important painter of the 16th-century Venetian school. So much so that his contemporaries recognised him as one of the most accomplished painters, adept with portraits, landscape, and mythological and religious subjects. His application and use of colour, his vivid, luminous tints, his brushwork and subtlety of tone had a profound influence on Western art.
Diana, in Roman mythology, was the goddess of the hunt, the moon, and nature and she had similar attributes to the Greek goddess Artemis. Oak groves and deer were especially sacred to her. Diana was one of the three maiden goddesses, along with Minerva and Vesta, who swore never to marry. Since the Renaissance, the myth of Diana has often been represented in the visual and literary arts.
- Why was this so story popular during the Renaissance?
- Why did Diana become such a popular subject in the visual arts?
Explore the National Gallery
- “Virgin of the Rocks” by Leonardo da Vinci – 1506
- “The Madonna of the Pinks” by Raphael – 1507
- “The Raising of Lazarus” by Sebastiano del Piombo– 1519
- “Salvator Mundi” by Andrea Previtali – 1519
- “Bacchus and Ariadne” by Titian – 1523
- “The Ambassadors” by Hans Holbein the Younger – 1533
- “Mary Magdalene” by Girolamo Savoldo – 1540
- “Saint George and the Dragon” by Tintoretto – 1558
- “The Family of Darius before Alexander” by Paolo Veronese – 1567
- “Diana and Actaeon” by Titian – 1569
- “The Rape of Europa” by Paolo Veronese – 1570
- “The Death of Actaeon” by Titian – 1575
- “The Origin of the Milky Way” by Tintoretto – 1575
Diana and Actaeon
- Title: Diana and Actaeon
- Artist: Titian
- Created: 1556 – 1559
- Media: Oil paint
- Dimensions: 184.5 × 202.2 cm (72.6 × 79.6 in)
- Museum: The National Gallery, London and National Galleries of Scotland
- Name: Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio
- Known as: Titian
- Born: c. 1488-1490 – Pieve di Cadore, Republic of Venice
- Died: 1576 (aged about 88) – Venice, Italy
- Notable Works:
“It is not bright colours but good drawing that makes figures beautiful.”
Photo Credit:1)Titian [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons