RUBENS, Peter Paul
(b. 1577, Siegen, d. 1640, Antwerpen)

Diana Presentig the Catch to Pan

c. 1615
Oil on canvas, 211,5 x 145 cm
National Museum, Belgrade

Rubens returned to Antwerp in 1608 from Italy, and he brought with him an interest in the heritage of Antique art and literature that developed into a cornerstone of his thinking and artistic production. After setting up home in Antwerp, he devoted himself with unfailing interest to Greek and Roman mythology, which he used for the subject of many works, mostly as private commissions.

The goddess of Diana was evidently of great importance to Rubens in around 1615, for she could be combined with another subject that interested him: the hunt. Moreover, this subject was well received by his royal and aristocratic patrons: game hunting was the exclusive preserve of the ruling class. Rubens produced a number of large format hunting scenes in 1614-15, many with mythological backdrop.

Rather than emphasizing extremes of movement, as is typical of many of Rubens's hunting pictures, the Diana Returning from Hunt focuses instead on characterizing the powerful, beautiful and pensive huntress. Diana, simultaneously the goddess of chastity, stands with her companions before a group of satyrs, who belong to a quite different branch of Rubens's work: Bacchanalia. Diana's hunting spear divides the different worlds of the two groups And no less different than their appearance and natures are the spoils held by the satyrs on the one side, and Diana and her companions on the other. The fruit presented in richly laden baskets and the intoxicating wine, combined with the lecherous gazes of these half-naked figures, must be seen as an unambiguous sexual overture. Diana, guardian of female chastity, resists. The birds and the dead hare that she and her nymphs have bagged during the hunt reveal them as the conquerors of the pleasurable indulgence embodied by the friends of Bacchus.

The animals and the fruits were painted by Frans Snyders.

There is painting in Gemäldegalerie in Dresden almost identical to the one treasured in Belgrade. Among the differences is the size - the one in Belgrade is larger, and the slight difference in composition - on the Belgrade painting "the frame" is moved a bit to the right revealing the complete catch of the Diana companion.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.