(b. 1504, Bologna, d. 1570, Paris)

Classical Female Figure (Diana or Venus) with Two Infants

Pen and brown ink, highlighted with white gouache, 252 x 201 mm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Italian artist Primaticcio went to France early in his career to work for the French king, Francis I. Although most of Primaticcio's energies went into decorating the great palace of Fontainebleau, the present drawing was probably executed for Anet, the château built for Henry II's mistress, Diane de Poitiers (1499-1566). The main figure in the drawing may be Diana: although she lacks her attribute of the crescent crown on her head, she points at the crescent moon at upper left. Diane de Poitiers, was frequently alluded to through the portrayals of Diana, goddess of the hunt, and her attributes. Alternatively, the subject of the drawing was tentatively identified as Venus with Eros and Anteros.

Three other drawings by Primaticcio relating to his work at Anet survive. Like this drawing, they illustrate scenes from the story of the mythological goddess Diana, and it has been suggested that they were for a series of stained-glass windows. The emphasis on outline and the bold, simple design corroborate this idea.