La Chasse de Diane
The Swiss painter Arnold Böcklin is one of the major figures in Germanic symbolism. Throughout his career he worked to inject new life into history painting with mythological subjects. When he painted this landscape he was living in Italy, where he found a source of inspiration in phase with his love of antique culture. Diana's Hunt incidentally illustrates an episode from Ovid's Metamorphoses: in the course of a hunt, Acteon loses his way and surprises the goddess Diana bathing naked in a spring. He flees but soon realises that the outraged Diana has turned him into a stag. He is killed and devoured by his own hounds.
Böcklin has freely adapted this legend, setting it in an almost supernatural landscape in which some details have been treated with great precision. We see Diana armed with her bow, accompanied by several hunters. The ferocious dogs are well drawn but are racing towards a stag already brought to the ground and bristling with arrows.
With this painting, dated 1896, Böcklin returned to a subject he had treated early in his career when he painted a large Diana's Hunt commissioned by the museum in his native city of Basel. This nostalgic work therefore refers to his youth, but it is also a final homage paid by the ageing, ailing artist to the great tradition of classical landscape painting.