Visual Interpretation Of Diana And Actaeon

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When the story of “Diana and Actaeon” is mentioned, one’s mind most commonly recalls the episode in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which Actaeon accidentally stumbles upon the goddess Diana naked in the woods during a hunting trip, and she metamorphoses him into a deer; therefore, his hunting dogs devour him (Ovid 55). “Diana and Actaeon” is a very well known episode from the Metamorphoses; it is where Ovid first delves into a discussion of whether the gods are just in their punishments towards mortals. Perhaps for this reason, “Diana and Actaeon” has inspired numerous visual translations depicting various scenes from the episode. The famous Italian artist Titian created a visual depiction of “Diana and Actaeon,” titled “Diana and Actaeon,” in which …show more content…
Although each idea is not directly transferred from the literature medium to the art medium, Titian consolidates all of the parts he feels are important from the Ovidian version of “Diana and Actaeon” into his painting without making the painting too complex or have too many scenes incorporated at once. By emphasizing the scene of Actaeon stumbling upon Diana bathing, Titian invites his viewers to witness the initial violation of purity as Actaeon observes the nymphs attempt to cover Diana’s naked body. Along with this, Titian allows viewers to preserve Diana’s innocence in their mind, as she is never shown splashing Actaeon with water, or cursing him into a metamorphosis as she does in Ovid’s tale. Without this being explicitly stated, it could be inferred that Actaeon metamorphoses into a deer based on his guilt over seeing the goddess naked. Titian then subtly inserts the deer hides and the deer skull into the picture to give not only the viewers of the art, but also Actaeon a glimpse of the inevitable fate that will occur after this accidental encounter. By recreating certain visual aspects from Ovid’s “Diana and Actaeon” that Titian felt would fit well into this painting, and also changing elements that he believed would not, Titian was able to successfully translate the Metamorphoses episode of “Diana and Actaeon” into a painting, which can be understood by all parties involved, whether the viewer is familiar with Ovid and with the Metamorphoses, or someone who has stumbled upon the work of art in a museum and knows none of the original tale. Although Titian has to overcome some barriers when translating between these two mediums, he is still able to emerge with a successful outcome that is recognizable as “Diana and Actaeon,”

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