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Titian, Diana and Callisto

Key facts
Full title Diana and Callisto
Artist Titian
Artist dates active about 1506; died 1576
Date made 1556-9
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 187 × 204.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought jointly by the National Gallery and National Galleries of Scotland with contributions from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation), The Monument Trust, J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, Mr and Mrs James Kirkman, Sarah and David Kowitz, Chris Rokos, The Rothschild Foundation, Sir Siegmund Warburg's Voluntary Settlement, and through private appeal and bequests, 2012
Inventory number NG6616
Location Room 29
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Diana and Callisto

The nymph Callisto was the favourite of Diana, virgin goddess of the hunt. Jupiter, king of the gods, noticed her beauty and disguised himself to seduce her. Titian has painted the moment Diana forces Callisto to strip and bathe after hunting and discovers her pregnancy. The drama is heightened by Titian’s free and expressive brushwork. The contours of the figures dissolve as the thinnest of dragged brushstrokes are swept over the surface of the canvas, contributing to the sense of dynamism and movement.

Titian painted Diana and Callisto and Diana and Actaeon (co-owned by the National Gallery and the National Galleries of Scotland) for his most powerful patron, King Philip II of Spain, between 1556 and 1559. The pictures, based on the Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses, were designed to be displayed together and have remained together throughout their history. The background landscapes and the stream in their foregrounds appear to run from one painting to the other and elements and poses are echoed, creating a rhythm across both canvases.

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