Titian - Diana and ActaionOil on canvas, 1556 - 1569, 184,5 x 202,2 cm, Nional Gallery in Edinburgh



Description and interpretation of the famous painting'Diana and Actaion' by Titian!

Titian - Diana and Actaion

What the hunter Actaion may discover here behind the curtain is not of bad parents! A cave in which many nymphs bathe... His gaze falls on one that differs from them - the virgin hunting goddess Diana. She quickly tries to cover her naked body with a light cloth. But if looks could kill... Diana, who has never been looked at naked by a man, is in a humiliating situation here. But it wasn't even Actaion's evil intention to visit and peer at this place and if he had known how cruel the consequences would be, he would certainly have denied it. For Diana will turn the hunter into a stag so as not to defile her reputation as a virgin and chaste deity. His own dogs will hunt and maul him. 

But nothing of this is yet to be seen. Much more interesting in this scene is the surprising moment in which Actaion - still in walking position - "catches" the goddess bathing. One of his dogs accompanied him into the picture and reflects his master's curiosity through his gaze. He also symbolizes absolute obedience. Aktaion dropped his bow in surprise, but the quiver with arrows on his back clearly assigns him to his profession. Perhaps he already recognizes here who he has before him and that this sight is something deeply forbidden. The movement of the fabrics and the small, fluttering band also reflect its inner state of excitement on the outside. In the background we can see the Dolomites through an opening in the wall. 

Only the small stream of the fountain separates the young man from the seven women, who were also accompanied by a little dog. They can be seen in all kinds of different views. A sitting woman, a squatting woman, one bending over... Titian could prove his varietá - show that he was capable of depicting similar bodies in many variations. This also applies to the faces, which show different facets of human emotions, from surprised to coquettish. Here Titian chooses a triangle composition whose summit represents the back figure. Below it stands a Murano vase that reflects in the mirror of the nymph next to it. Diana identifies herself by a crown, the crescent moon refers to her further tasks as goddess of the moon. Two servants surround her. One, apparently an African, helps Diana cover herself up. The other dries her legs and is so concentrated that she has not yet discovered the intruder. But by washing her feet Diana has to open her thighs a little. What can Actaion see here?

There are clues in the picture that point to the end of the story. In a moment, Diana Actaion will splash water on Actaion and turn him into a deer. In the right part of the picture we can already see the forest into which Aktaion has to flee; on a projection in the wall there is a stag's skull, which could not give us a clearer sign. Also in the branches already hang the animal skins of the past hunt booty. And those with particularly good eyes can see a simultaneous scene in the background, where Diana hunts for a deer between the trees. In the original, which measures almost 4 square meters, this can of course be seen better.  

© the artinspector / alexandra tuschka