Diana and Actaeon (Landscape with Figures bathing in a Pool)

Diana and Actaeon (Landscape with Figures bathing in a Pool)
Diana and Actaeon (Landscape with Figures bathing in a Pool)
Diana and Actaeon (Landscape with Figures bathing in a Pool)
Private Collection / Photograph by Matthew Hollow
title=Credit line
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Diana and Actaeon (Landscape with Figures bathing in a Pool)
c.1753-54 (undated)
Oil on canvas
Metric: 97.7 x 132.2 cm
Imperial: 38 7/16 x 52 1/16 in.
Private Collection, England
Accession Number
Wilson Online Reference
Diana and the nymphs are seen in the centre foreground and on the left is Actaeon in the form of a stag, head back with antlers to the right, pursued by his hounds. A relief of Leda and the Swan is on the architectural fragment, lower left. A small female figure, perhaps Callisto attempting to hide, is clinging to the branch in the water to the right. Diana wears the crescent moon on her head to symbolise her role as moon-goddess. In the distance are classical ruins and in the middle ground a block-like cliff or ruin, with a shadow of trees falling upon it.
Probably sold by the artist with P64 to John Rolle-Walter, who visited Rome in 1753; thence by descent; Lord Clinton, Bicton, Devon; Sotheby's 19 July 1950 (143 - Landscape with Figures bathing in a Pool); bt Leggatt; Lord Wharton, Halswell Park, Bridgewater; Private Collection, England
Signed on rock centre left foreground in letters simulating relief: RW
Techniques and materials
Pentimenti to the immediate left of Diana indicate perhaps another nymph, since erased. The trees are differentiated in type and colour in the manner of Claude and the sky is streaked at the upper left, both of which characteristics may be seen in other major paintings of this period by Wilson.
[1] Modern Williams and Hill printed label on vertical right member of frame, verso
[2] Small possible cut-out label in centre of upper horizontal member of stretcher - illegible
The subject is from Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book 3, lines 192-252. Diana was bathing with three of her maidens when she noticed the hunter Actaeon spying on them from behind the trees. Outraged, the goddess of chastity and hunting turned him into a stag and his own hounds tore him to pieces.
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Related Paintings
Pendant P64 Rome and the Ponte Molle, National Museum Wales, Cardiff
P87Ariccia - II, Collection of the Earl of Pembroke, Wilton House, Wiltshire
P87A Fallen Tree at Ariccia, Collection of the Earl of Pembroke, Wilton House, Wiltshire
Critical commentary
This painting is stylistically close to P64 Rome and the Ponte Molle (National Museum Wales, Cardiff), to which it approximates in size, and is traditionally regarded as its pendant. W.G. Constable argues, however, that a Diana and Callisto would be a more likely subject.
Ford 1952, p. 312, fig. 7; WGC, pp. 159-60, pl.17a; Solkin 1982, p. 189
Link to WG Constable Archive Record
More Information
The fallen tree trunk at the right in this painting, although on a different scale, is similar to the one shown in P87 Ariccia - II and P87A Fallen Tree at Ariccia
Relined. Very good condition overall. Kate Lowry has noted:
Simple weave linen canvas glue relined onto similar weight linen. Original turnovers were probably removed at time of lining. Five-member pine stretcher probably dates from early 20th century and the time of the relining. Ground is fully covered by paint throughout, but possibly a pale tone as no obvious warm or dark colour visible in mature cracks in sky. Some evidence of a warm brown underpaint layer in the foreground. No reserve left for the trees against the sky. The leaves are rendered with fine feathery strokes over the sky paint at the edges of the foliage masses.
Foreground is quite dark with light forms of figures, rocks and clothing showing up dramatically against this. Right hand foliage area is very dark and it is difficult to distinguish much detail here. Sky is characterised by long diagonal streamers of cloud in the upper part. Viewed under UV light the painting appears to be in excellent condition with only minor retouches in the foreground to cover drying cracks.