In the 16th century, the art of painting enjoyed a golden age in Venice. A large number of artists, including Titian (Tiziano), Paolo Veronese, Jacopo Tintoretto, Jacopo Bassano, and Andrea Schiavone, offered discerning civic, ecclesiastical and private patrons a wide variety of choice.
By the 1540s, Titian had become the most sought-after painter across Europe. Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto were painted for Philip II of Spain, then the most powerful monarch in the world. They form part of a series of famous mythological paintings by Titian inspired by the Roman poet Ovid’s 'Metamorphoses'. Titian himself referred to them as 'poesie', considering the works as visual equivalents of poetry.
Formerly in the Bridgewater Collection, the two paintings were acquired jointly by the National Gallery and the National Galleries of Scotland where they will be on display alternately.
Another painting associated with this pair is The Death of Actaeon, which, for some reason, was never sent to the king and remained in Titian’s studio unfinished at his death.