French School; late 17th century.
Diana and Callisto.
Oil on copper.
It has an ebony frame.
62.5 x 80.5 cm;
79 x 98 cm (frame).
An idealized landscape, with trees, a blue sky with clouds, and a large mountain in the background, serves as the setting for the play. In the center of the composition, two young people share the leading role in the scene. One of them sitting on a rock dressed in rich, brightly colored fabrics, directs her gaze towards her partner who rests her body on that of the young girl. Said young woman dressed in a short golden gilt tunic presents a crescent moon on her forehead and a quiver with arrows hanging from her back. The indicated elements are those that help to identify the two figures. Diana, in ancient Roman mythology, was the virgin goddess of hunting, associated with animals and wild lands (forests, jungles ...) and, later, supplanting Luna as goddess of the same (for which she is included among her attributes the first quarter). Callisto was sometimes described as a nymph, and classical mythology considered her the daughter of the King of Pelasgia Lycaon, in addition to being part of the cortege of Artemis or Diana. Ovid ("The Metamorphoses") collects a particular episode that reflects the relationship between the two: it would be shown here the moment when the goddess discovers that her maiden has become pregnant with Zeus (Jupiter in Roman mythology), who had become Diana to get closer to the nymph; or, perhaps, the moment of the impersonation itself. This theme has been treated by masters such as Rubens, Dosso Dossi, Palma el Viejo, Gaetano Gandolfi, Guglielmo della Porta, Tiziano (two versions), Boucher, Federico Cervelli, Nicolás René Jollain, etc.
The painter uses a precise, loose but short brushstroke, which defines the shapes and qualities of figures and objects, without diminishing the importance of drawing. This looking back to the past was very common at the time, both by rescuing classic texts that served as a source of artistic inspiration, and by the fact that many ladies of the court adopted the tastes of past times as a symbol of elegance. In a society that sought to escape from the present by fleeing in time and space. An example of this is this canvas in which the characters enjoy a figurative country atmosphere in a kind of arcadian.