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Venice 2014

The Diana Works

<em>Diana and Actaeon</em>

Fig 7. Titian, Diana and Actaeon, Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland (Artstor)

Titian sent the fourth and fifth works of the poesie to Philip II as a set. The Diana and Actaeon and the Diana and Callisto both tell narratives in which the goddess Diana played an important role. Both of these works depict Diana as the chased goddess of the moon and the harsh punishments she evoked on anyone who breaks her laws.[1] 

            Diana and Actaeon (Figure 7) depicts the story of the hunter Actaeon accidentally wandering into the grotto of Diana in the forest where her and her nymphs were bathing. The nymphs hid and tried to cover their naked bodies. Diana is being helped by her black maid while a nymph drys her feet. The nymph drying Diana’s feet seems to not notice the intruder. The dog at Diana’s feet is barking at the intruder. The background of the work has trees and square columns with a groin vault. Titian created the work in a basic V-shaped composition with a complex interrelation between the figures and the other objects in the work. Titian’s female figures of the nymphs and Diana were beautifully drawn and painted to show the connection between their reactions and their sheer beauty.[2]  

[1] Humfrey, Titian, 133.

[2] Wethey, Paintings of Titian, 73.

<em>Diana and Callisto</em>

Fig 8. Titian, Diana and Callisto, ca. 1556-59, Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland (Artstor)

Diana and Callisto (Figure 8) depicts the narrative of Diana discovering her nymph, Callisto, was pregnant with Jupiter’s child because the god seduced the nymph when he was disguised as the goddess Diana. In the work, the nymphs disrobe Callisto to discover that she is pregnant and Diana is seen banishing Callisto from Diana’s group of virgins.[1] Titian again combines the natural forest and classical architecture in the background. The fountain in the middle of the composition has a cupid figure carrying a vase, which is the source of water for the fountain. There are also three classical reliefs on the fountain. Callisto is the figure with the swollen belly surrounded by three nymphs. In the story, Callisto is discovered when the nymphs are undressing to take a bath. Titian depicts this by showing some nymphs naked, some half-way undressed, and some fully dressed. Diana is seated on her throne while the nymphs next to her put away her bows and arrows. A dog lays next a Diana’s feet as if tired from a hunt that just took place. Like Diana and Acteaon the composition is in a V-shape.            

[1] Wethey, Paintings of Titian, 74.

Roman Sarcophagus

Fig 9. Mercury with Proserpina, and Pluto, Roman Sarcophagus, 2nd century A.D., Palazzo Ducale, Mantua (Renaissance Artists and Antique Sculpture by Bober and Rubinstein)  

A classical pose was used by Titian in the Diana and Callisto to depict the power of the goddess Diana. Titian seemed to have referenced the classical pose of a god or goddess seated on their throne and passing judgment on the ones they control. One example of this classical pose that Renaissance painters were aware of is an ancient sarcophagus head that depicts Mercury, Pluto, and Proserpina (Figure 9). The figure that is in the pose that Titian used is Pluto. Pluto is seated on his throne with one arm out starched making a gesture to Mercury and the other one on the arm of his throne. One of his legs is outstretched and one is behind tucked behind the other. Titian makes a few minor changes to the pose when he used it for Diana. Diana has her arm pointed down more because the person she is pointing to, Callisto, is at a lower level than her. Diana’s other arm is around one of her nymphs and not on the arm of her throne such as Pluto’s arm. In this pose, Titian shows that Diana is a powerful goddesses.