Artworks
Diana and Actaeon

Contributor

One of the most common safety tips we hear is to be aware of your surroundings. Clearly, Actaeon was ignorant to this.

Note to self: voyeurism never pays off. While my cynical self isn’t convinced that Actaeon is just a clueless fool (being as successful hunters always have to be aware of their surroundings), legend has it that one day Actaeon was strolling through the woods after being separated from his friends when he happened upon Diana, the goddess of the hunt, and her voluptuous nymphs bathing together. Diana was not too happy that an icky boy ruined her quality girls day so she jumped to the only logical conclusion: she must kill the peeping tom. In the heat of the moment before Actaeon could react, Diana splashes water on him and turns him into deer. Scared and with the inability to speak, Actaeon bounds away and is, ironically, attacked by his own hunting hounds and killed.  

The myth of Diana and Actaeon can be found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. This is actually just one of a series of seven paintings based off the epic poem that was created for Phillip II of Spain. These paintings were a huge success for Titian at the time and are still considered by many to be one of Titian’s greatest series. Painter Lucian Freud even called this painting and Titian's Diana and Callisto “simply the most beautiful pictures in the world."

Some people just have bad luck. Bad things also seem to always happen to good people; these are just the sad truths of reality. While it is easy to pin Actaeon as a martyr and Diana as a heartless prudent wench, maybe Actaeon’s death is just a classic case of karmic retribution. Actaeon spent his life hunting down and slaying the innocent creatures of this earth, so it really seems all too fitting that the hunter would become the hunted. Or perhaps the timeless saying “you are what you eat” has finally proven itself to be true. Either way, I think Actaeon got what was coming to him. 

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Diana and Actaeon (Titian)

Diana and Actaeon is a painting by the Italian Renaissance master Titian, finished in 1556–1559, and is considered amongst Titian's greatest works. It portrays the moment in which the hunter Actaeon bursts in where the goddess Diana and her nymphs are bathing. Diana is furious, and will turn Actaeon into a stag, who is then pursued and killed by his own hounds, a scene Titian later painted in his The Death of Actaeon (National Gallery).

Diana is the woman on the right side of the painting. She is wearing a crown with a crescent moon on it and is being covered by the dark skinned woman who may be her servant. The nymphs display a variety of reactions, and a variety of nude poses.

In 2008–2009, the National Gallery, London and National Gallery of Scotland successfully campaigned to acquire the painting from the Bridgewater Collection for £50 million. As a result, Diana and Actaeon will remain on display in the UK, and will alternate between the two galleries on five-year terms.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Diana and Actaeon (Titian).