Hendrick van Balen, attributed to - Diana and Actaeon
Hendrick van Balen, attributed to
Diana and Actaeon
Oil on copper, mounted on an old wood panel.. 10.5 x 15 cm.
This work depicts seven seductively draped female figures, partly kneeling or sitting, gathered by the banks of a narrow river. Some appear frightened, others have already turned to escape. The reason for their fright is the man in the left background, approaching the scene with his hunting dogs. The painter of this small copper panel has depicted a theme from Ovid's Metamorphoses: The hunter who observes the naked women bathing is Actaeon, and the central figure of the group of women is the goddess Diana. She transforms Actaeon into a deer – the antlers are already visible on his head – and later he is torn to pieces by his own dogs, who no longer recognise him.
At the turn of the 17th century the theme of Diana, goddess of the hunt, became increasingly popular in the Netherlands, since hunting was the aristocratic pastime par excellence at the time. The mythological theme also provided a welcome pretext for depicting female nudes in an idyllic landscape. Hendrick van Balen was one of the leading painters of the flourishing Antwerp art scene in the first half of the 17th century, and was particularly admired for his flawless depictions of pale female nudes.
We would like to thank Dr Thomas Fusenig, Aachen, for attributing this panel to Hendrick van Balen.