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Diana the Huntress,

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Diana the Huntress

“Diana the Huntress,” (after Domenichino), Anonymous Italian Baroque artist, oil on canvas, c. 1675-1750.

The Artist 

The artist neither signed nor dated this painting, which was not unusual at this time. Art historians have studied the provenance (where it came from) and formal elements which could solve the mystery of the artist’s identity. On the basis of this provenance, it may have been painted “after Domenichino,” in the sense of being a copy by an assistant, or made later as a Baroque style copy after this well-known Italian master. In any event, the painting’s journey from Italy to the United States illustrates the popularity of Roman Baroque artists for an educated audience of nineteenth century American collectors.

Question: Who is the Italian Baroque artist Domenichino and what do his other paintings look like?

Answer: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/domn/hd_domn.htm

The Researcher

 Kathryn Bordwell, former art history student, wrote the following for an exhibition seminar that produced the exhibit "The Inheritence of Rome."

 “Diana the Huntress,” (after Domenichino), Anonymous Italian Baroque artist, oil on canvas, c. 1650-1750. (Madison Art Collection 76.1.922)

Diana, the Roman goddess of the moon, chastity, and hunting, appears as if departing for the hunt, carrying her bow and arrows, and accompanied by her faithful dog.[1] Previously the painting was entitled “Diana After the Hunt,” but this is an iconographic misnomer. When Diana is shown after the hunt, she is surrounded by dead game, and nymphs are beginning to celebrate the success of the hunt. In the university’s painting, Diana appears with her cloak flying out behind her, as if she is running through the forest, and there are no signs of the hunt having already occurred. This conception of Diana has more in common with representations of the huntress in action, as seen in the well-known Roman sculpture Diana with the Hind (deer) in the Louvre, Paris. The thematic interpretation is characteristic of the antique treatment of the goddess.

Since Diana is shown as a single figure, it has been suggested that it could also be a portrait of a lady as the goddess.[2] In eighteenth century France and England, women posed as Diana in order to associate themselves with her beauty, chastity and virtuosity. The mythological subject was synthesized with a portrait, which, of course, flattered the sitter.  In most portraits of women as Diana they are simply holding an arrow to indicate the connection. Since the collection’s Diana appears with hunting dogs as well as a bow and arrow, the conception is more narrative. This suggests that the Madison Art Collection painting is not an eighteenth century portrait of a woman as Diana.

The provenance of Diana the Huntress can be traced back to mid-nineteenth century New York or Philadelphia. When the university acquired it, there were labels from the Raydon Galleries (New York, N.Y.) and John Wanamaker & Company. The attribution of the artwork “After Il Domenichino,” comes from this source.  John Wanamaker founded one of the earliest department stores in Philadelphia in 1861, and established a branch in New York in 1896.[3] The store imported a variety of Italian artworks. Wanamaker also had a large personal collection of Old Masters at his estate Lindenhurst near Philadelphia. On the basis of this provenance, it is unclear whether the painting was “after Domenichino,” in the sense of being a Baroque copy by an assistant, or a later copy after this well-known Italian master. In any event, the painting’s journey from Italy to the United States illustrates the popularity of Roman Baroque artists for an educated audience of nineteenth century American collectors.

Domenico Zampieri, nicknamed Domenichino, was born in Bologna in 1581 and trained in the Carracci brothers’ studio. He transferred to Rome in 1602 to assist Annibale Carracci with the mythological frescoes at the Farnese Palace. According to the seventeenth century critic Giovanni Bellori, he was a meticulous artist who thought the concept was more important than the execution of a work because the idea could be lost in translation to the imperfect material. Domenichino was well known for his “affetti,” or emotions of the face, which he would act out in order to best capture them in a work.[4] As a follower of Raphael, he believed in ideal beauty and taking different aspects from nature and combining them to build an ideal. He portrayed human figures as they ought to be, as opposed to how they were. He wanted art works to be clear, with a narrative quality that was understandable to a universal audience. Domenichino became the leading classical Baroque painter in Rome from 1610-1631, when he departed for Naples where rivals and disagreeable patrons led to his early death in 1641, attributed to exhaustion or poison.[5] Domenichino's reputation in the eighteenth century was exceptional, as can be seen by the fact that more than fifty of his works were engraved.[6]

Domenichino painted several images of Diana during his stay in Rome. The first was commissioned by Vincenzo Giustiniani for the Sala di Diana in his palace at Bassano di Sutri in 1609. This cycle was meant as homage to the Carracci's Farnese frescoes and shows their influence. It was the first instance when Domenichino used workshop assistants. If the university’s painting is a seventeenth century Baroque copy based on Domenichino’s drawings or these frescoes, an assistant could have been the artist. Another one of Domenichino’s most famous works, The Hunt of Diana, was commissioned by Cardinal Aldobrandini in 1620, but later seized by Scipione Borghese for the Borghese Palace. Preparatory drawings in the Windsor Castle collection relate to this painting, and it was widely known in the late eighteenth century through Raphael Morghen’s engraving of 1784.[7]

A tentative hypothesis for the date of this painting can be made based on the evidence of the facial type, costume, and jewelry. Diana's face is a little more elongated than the rounder faces of Domenichino's women. However, sometimes similar proportions are found in contemporary Roman art, such as the Diana Hunting by Giuseppe Cesari (1568-1640), also known as Cavaliere d’Arpino.[8]  Cesari’s Diana has an oval face, blond hair and dark eyes, flowing classical drapery, carries a bow and arrow, and is accompanied by two dogs. The comparison demonstrates a common Diana type in this period. In the Madison Art Collection painting, the goddess has a jeweled headdress, pearls entwined in her hair, pearl drop earrings, and a jeweled band on her red bodice. Earrings returned to fashion in the mid-sixteenth century, and in the seventeenth century pearls were considered the most telling sign of wealth and prestige. Pearls were entwined in the hair, hung from the ears, and set into elaborate jewels. In the sixteenth century a large jewel often hung in the center of the bust, as Domenichino's Hunt of Diana, but in the eighteenth century, a “stomacher,” or a triangular jeweled front of the woman's bodice came into fashion.[9] The jeweled band on Diana’s bodice is neither a full stomacher nor a single jewel, but an intermediate stage between the two types. Based on the jewelry, a date between the mid-seventeenth century and mid-eighteenth century can be proposed for the Madison Art Collection Diana the Huntress.  (Kathryn Bordwell)



[1] Diana was the twin sister of Apollo, Roman god of the sun.

[2] Examples of Diana portraits include Jean-Marc Nattier, “Portrait of Constance Mosson as Diana,” 1742 (J. Paul Getty Museum), Nattier,  “Madame de Pompadour as Diana,” 1752 (Cleveland Museum of Art), Cosmo Alexander, “Lady as Diana,” 1764 (unknown location; photo, Frick Art Reference Library); Maria Cosway, “Duchess of Devonshire as Diana,” 1782 (Devonshire Collection). The single figure composition could also be explained by the painting being cut down from a larger canvas.

[3] John Wanamaker Collection (microfilm #2188), Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

[4] Giovanni P. Bellori, The Lives of Modern Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005); See also, Elizabeth Cropper. “Domenichino.” In Grove Art Online. Oxford Art (accessed October 14, 2009).

[5] Richard Spear, Domenichino, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982). See also, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T023167 (accessed October 14, 2009);

[6]John Pope-Hennessy, The Drawings of Domenichino in the Collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle, (New York: Phaidon Publishers Inc, 1948); Robert Erich Wolf et al., trans. Age of Correggio and the Carracci: Emilian Painting of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, (Washington, National Gallery of Art, 1986).

[7]Beverly Louise Brown (trans.), The Genius of Rome, 1592-1623, (London: Royal Academy of Arts; New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2001).

[8] These two artists were sometimes confused: The Getty Provenance Index lists a “Bath of Diane” which was attributed to Domenichino, and then reattributed to Giuseppe Cesari, see http://piprod.getty.edu/starweb/pi/servlet.starweb (accessed October 18, 2009). See also, "Arpino, Cavaliere d’." In Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T004230 (accessed November 23, 2009)

[9]Anita Mason, An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, (New York: Harper & Row, 1974); Diana Scarisbrich, Jewelry Design Sourcebook, (New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1998).