Titian’s Diana and Actaeon on tour from the National Gallery
Purchased by the National Gallery and National Galleries of Scotland in 2009 after a two-year fundraising campaign, this masterpiece of Renaissance art is displayed in Wales for the first time in its colourful history.
Diana and Actaeon is one of six large-scale mythologies inspired by the Roman poet Ovid that Titian painted for King Philip II of Spain when the artist was at the height of his powers.
The display opens on Thursday 19 April, and Diana and Actaeon can be viewed that evening as the gallery remains open until 7.30pm.
Titian began the picture and its companion Diana and Callisto in 1556, the year of Philip’s coronation.
Spurred on by the prestige of royal patronage, he unleashed all his creativity to produce works of unprecedented beauty and inventiveness.
Titian worked for three years to perfect these masterpieces, which were shipped to Spain in 1559.
He claimed their lengthy genesis was due to the relentless pains he took to make sumptuous works of art worthy of the king.
Diana and Actaeon
The painting depicts the fatal consequences of a mortal tragically caught up in the affairs of the gods. It is remarkable for its powerful dramatisation of extremes of human emotion.
While out hunting, Actaeon accidentally happens upon the secret bathing place of Diana, chaste goddess of the hunt.
Titian explores the dramatic impact of his intrusion through a dynamic arrangement of figures, sparkling light, intense colour and animated brushwork. Actaeon's fate is foretold by the stag's skull on the plinth and the skins of Diana's former prey hanging above her head.
The conclusion of the story is shown in the National Gallery's painting The Death of Actaeon. The outraged goddess immediately avenges herself by transforming Actaeon into a stag to be devoured by his own hounds.
The subjects were based on Ovid's ‘Metamorphoses’ - Titian himself referred to them as 'poesie' (poems). Read more on Diana and Actaeon from the National Gallery.
Watch this video for an in-depth look at Diana and Actaeon with Anne Pritchard, Assistant Curator of Historic Art and Oliver Fairclough, Keep of Art at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales.