LAIRESSE, Gérard de
(b. 1641, Liège, d. 1711, The Hague)

Diana and Endymion

c. 1680
Oil on canvas, 177 x 119 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

In 1674 William IIIbought a country estate in Soestdijk. He built a hunting lodge on the property after the design by Maurits Post, the son of the celebrated architect Pieter Post. In the following years he commissioned paintings from Johannes Glauber, Melchior d'Hondecoeter, Gerard Lairesse and various other artists to decorate the walls. Most of these works were transferred later to the Rijksmuseum and the Mauritshuis. According to an inventory of the Huis Soestdijk in 1699, Lairesse painted six pictures for the decoration. Diana and Endymion was one of them, it was probably intended for the bedroom of the stadholder's wife, Mary Stuart. It was hung probably above e fireplace.

The subject, Diana and Endymion, was a popular one. The story: Endymion, sent to sleep for ever by the command of Jupiter, in return for being granted perpetual youth, was visited nightly by the goddess Diana. The beautiful youth, Endymion, who fell into an eternal sleep, has captured the imagination of poets and artists as a symbol of the timelessness of beauty that is 'a joy forever'.