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Landscape with Diana and Acteon
Clerck, Hendrik de; Alsloot, Denis van
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Clerck, Hendrik de
Brussels, 1570 - Brussels, 1630
Alsloot, Denis van
Mechelen, 1570 - Brussels, 1628

Landscape with Diana and Acteon

Ca. 1608. Oil on panel.
Not on display

Hunting in the woods, Acteon stops on the banks of a stream when he sees Diana and her nymphs bathing nude on the opposite bank. Fascinated by their beauty, he observes them with a challenging and amused expression, unaware of the cost of his boldness. Indeed, the outcome will be tragic, as Diana, goddess of chastity, is furious at being seen in the nude by a mortal. She responds by transforming the ill-fated hunter into a buck, who is immediately devoured by his own bloodhounds. The story of Diana and Acteon was extremely popular among Renaissance artists as it allowed them considerable leeway in the painting of nudes. In Book III of Metamorphoses (138-252), Ovid locates the event in the forest near the city of Orchomenus in Boeotia, which the landscape painter Denis van Alsloot transforms into a clearing in the Fora de Soignes, near Brussels, reproducing the site with such topographical precision that it is still recognizable today. The figures, executed by the Brussels artist Hendrik de Clerck, display a similar degree of exactitude in the handling of form. The image demonstrates the respective artistic strengths that were inherent to such Flemish collaborative works. After returning from Italy, De Clerck became very well known as a painter of mythological scenes, and here he displays his mastery of the nude. The small figures, with their pearly white skin and elegant movements and poses, reflect his training in late Mannerism, a style he practiced throughout his career. But these figures also reveal his broad knowledge of both classical statuary and Northern engraving -his two iconographic sources. Here, Acteon is based on the Apollo Belvedere, one of the best known sculptures from antiquity during the seventeenth century. The distribution and treatment of the nudes imbue the scene with a significance that seems to extend beyond simple mythological narrative to express the dichotomy between the sexes via anatomy, posture, costume, and color. Acteon´s muscular body appears on the left, while the soft bodies of the nymphs curve around the goddess to the right. Acteon openly displays his naked body, extends his vigorous arm toward the goddess sitting directly across from him, and shows her his firmly grasped lance (an element with phallic significance). Momentarily shocked, the goddess fails to react as two nymphs hurry to cover her. Acteon´s posture expresses decisiveness, while that of the nymphs reflects surprise and even fear. Acteon´s flesh tones are reddish and warm while those of the goddess and her nymphs are pearly white and cool. This chromatic contrast is reinforced, on the one hand, by the brown of the hunter´s dogs and the red -a color symbolizing passion- robes that wave sinuously around his torso, and on the other, by the cool range of whites, blues, and greens on the women´s robes. Two small touches of red, which, significantly, only partially cover the women´s bodies without suggesting any movement, further emphasize this contrast. Landscape with Diana and Acteon entered the Spanish Royal Collections sometime between 1686 and 1734. The work was not included in the 1686 inventory of Madrid´s Alcazar Palace, but it must have arrived before 1734, as it was listed among those paintings stored in the Armory after having been rescued from the fire that destroyed that palace -home to Spain´s Habsburg monarchs- on Christmas of that year. Sometime prior to 1834, it was moved to the recently founded Real Museo de Pinturas (now the Museo Nacional del Prado), where it was installed in the sala reservada alongside other nudes. This work´s presence in the royal collections indicates the well-established Spanish taste not only for the nude, but also for such collaborative paintings, which were a highly prized Flemish specialty already collected by Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabella in the seventeenth century (Text drawn from Posada Kubissa, T.: Splendor, Myth, and Vision. Nudes from the Prado, 2016, pp. 106-107).

Technical data

Inventory number
Clerck, Hendrik de; Alsloot, Denis van
Landscape with Diana and Acteon
Ca. 1608
Height: 70 cm; Width: 105 cm
Royal Collection (Real Alcázar, Madrid, Armería, 1734, nº 140; Palacio del Buen Retiro, Madrid, pinturas recogidas de las Casas Arzobispales, 1747, nº 140; Palacio Real, Madrid, 1772 y 1794).

Bibliography +

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Bermejo de la Rica, A., La Mitologia en el Museo del Prado, Editora Nacional, Madrid, 1974.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, Maitres flamands du dix-septieme siécle du Prado et de collections privées espagnoles, Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Bruselas, 1975, pp. nº8.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de pinturas. Escuela flamenca, Museo del Prado; Patrimonio Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1975, pp. 78-79.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, Pedro Pablo Rubens (1577-1640): exposición homenaje, Ministerio de Cultura, Dirección General de Patrimonio, 1977, pp. nº14.

Escalas, R., Instruments de Musique Espagnols du XVI Au XIX Siecle, Generale de Banque, Bruselas, 1985, pp. 25 / lám. 6.

Noticias. Levantamiento definitivo de depósitos, Boletín del Museo del Prado, X, 28, 1989, pp. 124.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. nº1665.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, El siglo de Rubens en el Museo del Prado: catálogo razonado, Prensa Ibérica, Madrid, 1995, pp. 352.

Le botteghe di Tiziano, Alinari 24 ORE, 2009, pp. 373-376.

Posada Kubissa, Teresa, El paisaje nórdico en el Prado. Rubens, Brueghel, Lorena, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2011, pp. 58-60, 158, n. 13.

Nude and the norm in the early modern low countries, Brepols, 2011, pp. 181.

Posada Kubissa, Teresa, Rubens, Brueghel, Lorrain. A Paisagem Nórdica do Museu do Prado, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga - INCM - Museo Nacional del Prado, Lisboa, 2013, pp. 56-57,153 n.13.

Posada Kubisa, T, 'H. de Clerck, D. van Alsloot. Landscape with Diana and Acteon" En:, Splendor, Myth, and Vision : Nudes from the Prado, Clark Art Institute ; Museo Nacional del Prado,, 2016, pp. 106-109 n.10.

Duerloo, Luc, The hunt in the performance of Archducal rule: endurance and revival in the Habsburg Netherlands in the early seventeenth century, Renaissance quarterly., LXIX n.1 spring, 2016, pp. 116-154 [146].

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1873-1907. Núm. 1161.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1972. Núm. 1356.

Inv. Felipe V, Buen Retiro, 1747. Núm. 140.
PINTURAS ENTREGADAS en dichas Casas Arzobispales a don Santiago de Bonavia [...] {11300} 140 / Vna tabla de vara y quarta de largo y dos tercias y media de alto historia de Diana y Ancion original del Brugul en seis mil reales

Inv. Alcázar, Madrid, 1734. Núm. 140.
PINTURAS QUE SE LLEVARON A LA ARMERIA [...] {9219} 140 / Otra tabla de vara y quarta de alto y dos tercias y media de alto con marco tallado y dorado historia de Diana y Anthion original de Artois.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1665.
Van-Artois / 1665. Diana y Acteon. / Mientras dos ninfas cubren a la diosa, otra arroja agua con la palma de la mano al imprudente cazador que ya se va transformando en ciervo. (tabla.) / Las figuras son de Klerc. / Alto 2 pies, 6 pulg; ancho 3 pies, 9 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 1665.

Inv. Testamentaría Fernando VII, Real Museo, Sala Reservada, 1834. Núm. 67.
SESENTA Y SIETE. País con Diana y Acteón. Diana sentada. / Anónimo. Yd. [Flamenca] / T. / 20360

Inscriptions +

Inscribed. Front

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

Arte y mito. Los dioses del Prado
15.10.2020 - 14.03.2021

Splendor, Myth and Vision: Nudes from the Prado
Williamstown MA
12.06.2016 - 10.10.2016

Rubens, Brueghel, Lorena. El paisaje nórdico en el Prado
03.12.2013 - 30.03.2014

Rubens, Brueghel, Lorena. El paisaje nórdico en el Prado
Palma de Mallorca
20.06.2013 - 29.09.2013

Rubens, Brueghel, Lorena. El paisaje nórdico en el Prado
14.03.2013 - 02.06.2013

Rubens, Brueghel, Lorena. El paisaje nórdico en el Prado
20.12.2012 - 24.02.2013

Rubens, Brueghel, Lorena. El paisaje nórdico en el Prado
25.09.2012 - 25.11.2012

Rubens, Brueghel, Lorena. El paisaje nórdico en el Prado
Santiago de Compostela
01.12.2011 - 18.03.2012

Update date: 04-11-2021 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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