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Paul Bril, Diana and Callisto

Key facts
Full title Diana and Callisto
Artist Paul Bril
Artist dates about 1554 - 1626
Date made probably 1620s
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 49.5 × 72.4 cm
Acquisition credit Sir Claude Phillips Bequest, 1924
Inventory number NG4029
Location Room 17
Collection Main Collection
Diana and Callisto
Paul Bril

In the Metamorphoses, a poem by the Roman writer Ovid, Callisto was one of the virginal companions of the goddess Diana. She was raped by Jupiter, ruler of the gods, and became pregnant. One day, while out hunting, Diana and her companions decided to bathe in a stream. Callisto was forced to undress and her pregnancy was revealed. This moment of discovery was a favourite subject with European patrons and artists from the fifteenth century onwards, perhaps for the opportunity it gave to show a number of nude female figures.

Bril was born and trained in Antwerp, but moved to Rome in 1575. His encounter with the work of Italian artists, in particular Annibale Carracci and his followers, modified his style profoundly, which became calmer and more classicising. In the 1620s, under the influence of the Bolognese school, he also produced a number of landscapes like this, in which broad tranquil settings are inhabited by mythological figures.

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