Transcriptions: Writing

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'Transcriptions: Writing' is a project inviting MA Creative Writing students from Birkbeck, University of London, to write a short fiction response to a National Gallery painting.

Titian: 'The Death of Actaeon'

Ginevra White

Titian, 'The Death of Actaeon', about 1559-75
Titian: The Death of Actaeon, about 1559-75

Actaeon, never wishing to peer or to stare, but who as chance would insist, set eyes on forbidden, sumptuous flesh, paid for the crime with the price of his life.

Unwitting young huntsman, after a morning’s savage killing, he sought only relief from a cracked thirst in his throat. He stumbled upon the goddess’ wash. Thronged by a thicket of nymphs all humming attentions, Diana bathed her body in the river’s flush flow. Actaeon stood, electrified by the planetary system of cheeks, knees and breasts all shimmering reflections from the bright sunlit water.

He saw her, she spied him. Diana, goddess of hunt, struck swift with her rage. Fuming, she sped to destroy the image of celestial curves now etched on his mind. Turned to a stag by the goddess’ wrath, he was killed by the teeth of his very own hounds. This was the price the huntsman must pay, for an unwitting glimpse of virginal beauty.