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Diana and Callisto
Rubens, Peter Paul
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Rubens, Peter Paul

Siegen, Westphalia (Germany), 1577 - Antwerp (Belgium), 1640

Rubens, Peter Paul See author's file

Diana and Callisto

Ca. 1635. Oil on canvas.
Room 029

When Rubens visited the Spanish court in Madrid from late August 1628 until April 1629, he copied many of the numerous paintings by Titian in the royal collection. He was seduced by the radical technique of broken brushstrokes characteristic of the late works of the Venetian, which inspired his own way of painting from this time until his death in 1640. He must also have been drawn by the emotional intensity of Titian’s art, one of its most salient qualities. But Rubens was a very different individual than Titian, with a different outlook on life, perhaps shaped by a warmer heart. This shows through in this painting of Diana and Callisto which he produced after his return to Antwerp. In it he offers a reinterpretation of Titian’s version of the myth, one of the compositions that he copied in Madrid.

In Titian’s Diana and Callisto, the lack of empathy and mercy that Diana shows towards the nymph Callisto is shocking. Jupiter was seduced by the beauty of the nymph and reacted to his desire with violence, by raping her. A few months later her pregnancy was uncovered by her companions. To Rubens she inspires pity. The nymphs that disrobe Callisto go about their work casually, as they do in Titian’s painting. But the attitude of Diana is drastically transformed: The goddess reaches out to the nymph with an expression of disbelief and pain. It is hard to believe that she will subsequently punish her - Rubens’s staging of the story makes me feel that when she does, it is against her heart.

Rubens’s transformation of the myth can be linked to his personal life. Since his marriage to his second wife Helena Fourment in December 1630, he painted numerous idyllic scenes complete with personal allusions that are expressions of love at full bloom. Among them are many portraits of Helena, but also the Three Graces and The Garden of Love (they both belong to the Prado), two of his most beautiful and personal paintings; the features of Rubens’s young wife inspired some of the women in these two images. In the context of his own marital bliss (which produced five children), sympathy for Callisto seems natural. In the painting Diana and Callisto she too looks like Helena. And the hairstyle of the nymph next to her is the same as Rubens’s wife wears in several portraits of her. Rubens’s use of a female type inspired by his wife is sometimes explained because she was a convenient model. It is also a reflection of his love.

There are some beautiful passages in this painting. Diana’s long blonde hair moves as she turns - in ancient sources such as Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the Eikones by Philostratus the Elder, moving clothing and hair are a frequent way of expressing dynamism. The belly and breasts of the goddess are also shaped by her movement. The strained pose of the woman who turns her back to us is a pictorial challenge. When describing a painting of Atlas in his book, Philostratus wrote that it showed "a high degree of skill; for the shadows on a crouching figure [...] run into each other [...]". The shadows in Rubens’s figure are also complicated by her pose. In a context of admiration for most things ancient, texts such as this conveyed critical insights from Antiquity. This same figure in Rubens’s painting is based on the very famous bronze from the first century BCE known as the Spinario (or Thorn-Puller) (Rome, Capitoline Museums). The large purple garment worn by Callisto is also inspired by ancient ideas. Purple was more prestigious than any other color in Ancient Greece and Rome. In the Odyssey, Odysseus, still unrecognised by Penelope upon his return to Ithaca, tells her that he once saw the king wearing "a heavy woolen cape, sea purple in double folds". And Eros, in Lucian’s Dialogues of the Gods, tells Zeus to "wear a purple robe" to look more attractive.

Another beautiful and characteristic effect of Rubens’s technique at this point in his career is visible in this painting. Some of the most brightly lit areas - under both arms of the nymph who turns her back, or where the sun rays shine through some of the branches - seem to be at a distance when one backs away from the painting, but become bright passages of dense paint laid on the surface of the canvas when seen up close. The allure of the painting’s illusionism is palpable in these passages. The rays of sun are particularly beautiful. As they find their way through the foliage, they evoke the idea of an animated natural world. Few if any landscape paintings by other artists conjure this idea with the plenitude that Rubens manages; here we get a taste of it (Vergara, Alejandro, in Mythological Passions, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2021, pp. 138-142).


Technical data

Inventory number
Rubens, Peter Paul
Diana and Callisto
Ca. 1635
Height: 202.6 cm; Width: 325.5 cm; Base/bottom: 4 cm
Royal Collection (Real Alcázar, Madrid, Galeria del cierzo, 1666, s.n.; Real Alcázar, Galeria del Cierzo, 1686, s.n.; Real Alcazar, Galeria del Cierzo, 1701-1703, nº192; Real Alcázar, Madrid, Pinturas que se llevaron a la Armeria; 1734, nº110; Palacio Nuevo, Madrid, Pinturas existentes antiguas en la primera sala de la Furriera, 1747, nº110; Palacio Nuevo, Estudio de Andrés de la Calleja, 1772, nº110; Palacio Nuevo, Casa de Rebeque, 1794, s. n.; Real Academia de Bellas Arte de San Fernando, Madrid, Pinturas que posee la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, 1796-1805, nº52; Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Sala Reservada, 1827, nº52; Museo Real de Pinturas a la muerte de Fernando VII, Madrid, Sala Reservada, 1834, nº68)

Bibliography +

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier y Beroqui, Pedro, Inventarios Reales en 12 Volumenes y Un Indice (Fotocopias) (procedencia/provenanace), 1923.

Bottineay, Yves, L'Alcázar de Madrid et l'inventaire de 1686. Aspects de la cour d'Espagne au XVIIe siècle (procedencia/provenance), Bulletin Hispanique, 60, 1958.

Fernández Bayton, Gloria, Inventarios reales: testamentaria del Rey Carlos II: 1701-1703 (procedencia/provenance), Museo del Prado: Patronato Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1975.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, Museo del Prado: catálogo de pinturas: escuela flamenca, Museo del Prado: Patrimonio Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1975, pp. 254-255.

Volk, Mary Crawford, On Rubens and Titian, The Ringling Museum of Art Journal, 1983, pp. 144,153/ lám.14.

Vergara, Alejandro, Don Rodrigo Calderón y la Introducción del arte de Rubens en España, ARCHIVO ESPAÑOL DE ARTE / ARCHIVO ESPAÑOL DE ARTE Y ARQUEOLOGIA, 67, 1994, pp. 210.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, El siglo de Rubens en el Museo del Prado: catálogo razonado, II, Prensa Ibérica, Barcelona, 1995, pp. 926.

Anes, Gonzalo, Las colecciones reales y la fundación del Museo del Prado, Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1996, pp. 203.

Vergara, Alejandro, The Presence of Rubens in Spain. (Volumes i and II). Tesis D, A Bell & Howell Company, Ann Arbor, 1999, pp. 210.

Barbeito, José Manuel, Velázquez, Gómez de Mora, y Carbonel, REALES SITIOS: REVISTA DEL PATRIMONIO NACIONAL, 36, 1999.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Velázquez, Rubens y Van Dyck: pintores cortesanos del siglo, Museo Nacional del Prado El Viso, Madrid, 1999, pp. 244.

Portús Pérez, Javier, La sala reservada y el desnudo en el Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, Turner, Madrid, 2002, pp. 120.

V.V.A.A., Historias inmortales, Galaxia Gutemberg Museo del Prado, Barcelona, 2003, pp. 165-174/ 281-298.

Belkin, Kristin Lohse, A House of Art : Rubens As Collector, Runenhuis, Antwerpen, 2004, pp. 102.

Aterido Fernández, A.; Martínez Cuesta, J.; Pérez Preciado, J. J., Colecciones de pinturas de Felipe V e Isabel Farnesio: inventarios reales, Fundación de Apoyo de la Historia del Arte Hispánico, Madrid, 2004.

Schröder, Klaus Albrecht, Peter Paul Rubens, Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern, 2004, pp. 397-400.

De Clippel, Karolien; Van Cauteren, Katharina y Van der Stighelen, Katlijne (eds.), Nude and the norm in the early modern low countries, Brepols, Bélgica, 2011, pp. 201-220.

Martínez Leiva, Gloria; Rodríguez Rebollo, Ángel, El inventario del Alcázar de Madrid de 1666. Felipe IV y su colección artística, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid, 2015, pp. 430 nº 534.

Portús Pérez, Javier, Displaying the Nude in Spain 1550-1834. The Sala Reservada, en: Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes from the Prado, Clark Art Institute; Museo Nacional del Prado, 2016, pp. 50-66 [61].

G. Navarro, C.; Perdices, A., La mirada del otro: escenarios para la diferencia, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2017, pp. 93 n.26.

Vergara, Alejandro, 'Comentario ', En: Pasiones mitológicas, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2021, pp. 138-142 nº 20.

Falomir, M, Tiziano y las 'poesías'. Experimentación y libertad en la pintura mitológica, Pasiones mitológicas: Tiziano, Veronese, Allori, Rubens, Ribera, Poussin, Van Dyck, Velázquez., Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2021, pp. 15-39 [38].

Other inventories +

Inv. Felipe V, Palacio Nuevo, 1747. Núm. 110.
Pinturas existentes antiguas [...] en la 1ª sala de estte Oficio [...] 110 / Ottra Pintura de un Baño de Diana original de Rubens de quattro varas menos quarta de largo y dos y media de caida 400 rs

Inv. Alcázar, Madrid, 1734. Núm. 110.
Pinturas que se llevaron á la Armería despues del incendio de Palacio [...] 10 / [posible errata ¿110?] Otro liezo del Baño de Diana sin bastidor ni marco de dos varas y tercia de alto, y quatro varas menos quarta de ancho orignal de Rubenes medianamente maltratado

Inv. Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1772. Núm. 110.
Estudio de don Andres de la Calleja [...] 110 / Otro de los baños de Diana de tres varas y tres quartas de largo y dos y media de caida origial de Rubenes

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1873-1907. Núm. 1592.
1592.-(1716-R.)-Diana y Calisto.-Estando Diana bañándose con sus ninfas, descubre la preñez de Calisto, que rehusando desnudarse delante de la severa diosa, es mal de su grado despojada de sus vestiduras por sus compañeras.-Figuras enteras de tamaño natural. / Col. de Carlos II, R.Alc. y Pal. de Madrid. F.L. / Alto 2,02; ancho 3,23.-L.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1716.
Rubens / 1716. Diana y Calisto. / La diosa descubre la debilidad de Calisto mientras se baña con sus ninfas. Entre cuatro de estas desnudan a la culpada al lado de una fuente, y otras dos la contemplan en silencio escuchando las reprensiones de la diosa. / Alto 7 pies, 3 pulg; ancho 11 pies, 7 pulg.

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos II, Alcázar de Madrid, 1701-1703. Núm. 192.
Galeria del Cierzo [...] 192 / Yttem, ottra de quatro Varas de largo y dos y media de altto la fabula de Calixsto de mano de Rubenes Con marco negro tasada en quatroçientos Doblones

Academia, Sala Reservada, 1827. Núm. 52.
Diana y sus Ninfas bañandose descubren la preñez de Calixto. / [Autor] Rubens / [Alto] 7 [pies] 2 [pulgs.] / [Ancho] 11 [pies] 3 [pulgs.]

Pinturas que posee la Real Academia de San Fernando. Núm. 52.
Noticia de las pinturas que posee la Real Academia de San Fernando según el orden de su numeración [1796-1805] [...] 52 / Diana en el baño con sus Ninfas y entre ellas Calisto rehusando desnudarse de la escuela de Rubens donativo del Rey N.S. tres varas y tres quartas de ancho y dos varas y media de alto

Inv. Testamentaría Fernando VII, Real Museo, Sala Reservada, 1834. Núm. 68.
SALA RESERVADA [...] Sesenta y ocho. La culpa de Calisto descubierta. Diana en hombros de una negra. Rubens. Yd. [Flamenca] Lº 100.400

Inv. Felipe IV, Alcázar de Madrid, 1666. Núm. s.n..
GALERÍA DEL ÇIERÇO [...] {534} Otra, de quatro baras de largo y dos y media de alto, la fábula de Calisto, de mano de Pedro Pablo de Rubenes, en quatrocientos ducados de plata… 4.400.

Inv. Felipe IV, Alcázar de Madrid, 1686. Núm. s.n..
Galería del Cierzo [...] (389) Otra de quatro varas de largo y dos y media de alto la fabula de Calixsto de mano de Rubenes marco negro.

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1794. Núm. s.n..
PINTURAS EXISTENTES EN LA CASA DEL REBEQUE AL CARGO DE DON FRANCISCO BAYEU [...] {14318} Quatro varas escasas de largo y dos y media de alto = Los baños de Diana = Rubens = 20.000

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in white. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in orange. Back, lower right corner

Exhibitions +

Mythological Passions: Tiziano, Veronese, Allori, Rubens, Ribera, Poussin, Van Dyck, Velázquez
02.03.2021 - 04.07.2021

06.06.2020 - 25.07.2021

The Other’s Gaze. Spaces of difference
14.06.2017 - 10.09.2017

05.11.2010 - 23.01.2011

Location +

Room 029 (On Display)


Displayed objects +

Weapons / Arms

Horn, Natural / Horn, Hunting: Trompa de caza de cuerno de animal en el registro inferior derecho de la composición. Se trata de un aerófono de soplo verdadero de tipo longitudinal o tubo, con o sin boquilla. El pabellón parece decorado, y se representa con el típico cordón para ser colgada. No se distingue la boquilla del instrumento que queda fuera del cuadro. Los antecedentes más remotos de este instrumento se encuentran en caracolas y cuernos prehistóricos. A causa de su gran dispersión y su amplio uso, se utiliza un gran número de denominaciones y términos. En la mitología grecorromana, los aerófonos se representan en relación con el culto a Baco/Dionisios y con la estética del pathos.
Construidos de diferentes materiales de origen vegetal, animal, o mineral. Se utilizan como instrumento de señales para transmitir información a través del sonido, como instrumentos ceremoniales para celebrar a los dioses o como herramientas de guerra utilizadas para estimular el combate.


Update date: 03-02-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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