19 September 2008

Actaeon - 15th to 17th centuries

Book III of the Metamorphoses continues with the story of Actaeon. We start our look at representations of this theme with a majolica dish dating from the 1490s and now in Bath's Holbourne Museum of Art, showing the story of Actaeon in the centre and the story of the Centaurs and the Lapiths around the rim. (photograph by HaSee released into the public domain via wikipedia)

The picture to the left is Louis Cranach the Elder's picture of Diana and Actaeon, from the first third of the 16th century. It is now in Connecticut's Wadsworth Athenaeum, but does not appear to be on their website.

The two pictures of Actaeon above are both by Titian, the one on the left, called Diana Surprised by Actaeon, being earlier (1556-1559 -- now in The National Galleries of Scotland) and the one on the right, called The Death of Actaeon, being later (1565-1576 -- now in London's National Gallery). Lonely London Lad's song was inspired by the Diana Surprised by Actaeon, and the two paintings form the video accompaniment to this performance of the aria "Oft she visits this lov'd mountain" from Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas".

Moving on to the late 1580s and and early 1590s, the above left picture is by Bassano, (now in the Art Institute of Chicago) while a drawing by Spranger is now in New York's Metropolitan Museum. The above right picture is by Cesari (1603), and is now in Budapest's Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, but does not appear to be on their website.

A decade or so later, Joachim Anthoniesz Wtewael of the Netherlands produced Actaeon Watching Diana and Her Nymphs Bathing, now in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Dresden's Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (ninth picture down -- can't link any more closely) dates Albani's painting of Diana and Actaeon to before 1630. In 1634, Rembrandt combined the stories of Diana and Callisto and Diana and Actaeon in a single picture now in Anholt Castle in North Rhine-Westphalia (a tip of the hat to Judith Weingarten, who brought this to my attention in a comment on my second post about Callisto).

St. Petersburg's The Hermitage has Maratti's Landscape With Diana and Actaeon from the late 1660s, while Liechtenstein Castle takes us up to the 1690s with Franceschini's Diana and Acteon .

Backtracking slightly to 1684, the French composer Charpentier wrote a pastorale called Actéon, an extract from which can be viewed below.

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