Diana and Callisto (1559) by Titian

Diana and Callisto - Titian - 1556 - 1559

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Artwork Information

TitleDiana and Callisto
Date1556 - 1559
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions187 x 205 cm
Art MovementMannerism (Late Renaissance)
Current LocationKunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

About Diana and Callisto

“Diana and Callisto” is a renowned mythological painting by the artist Titian, executed between 1556 and 1559. This oil on canvas artwork is a prime example of the Mannerism art movement, specifically from the Late Renaissance. The painting measures 187 by 205 centimeters and is part of a series of mythological paintings (poesie) that Titian created for Philip II between 1553 and 1562. It is currently housed at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria.

The artwork depicts a dramatic moment drawn from Roman mythology, where the goddess Diana discovers the pregnancy of her nymph companion, Callisto, a clear violation of the virgin goddess’s chastity requirement for her followers. The central figures are Callisto, who is being pushed away by Diana, identifiable by her crown, and Callisto’s exposed body, which reveals her pregnancy. To the left, a nymph tries to shield Callisto, expressing a gesture of empathy or perhaps a last attempt to keep the secret. Meanwhile, other nymphs witness the scene with varied reactions—from dismay to shock.

The composition is rich with emotion, tension, and dynamic forms. It masterfully portrays the human figures in complex poses and with expressive gestures that accentuate the story’s emotional gravity. The forested landscape envelops the scene while a sliver of idyllic blue sky in the background contrasts with the intense drama unfolding in the foreground. The use of color, light, and dark emphasize the focal point, guiding the viewer’s gaze amongst the turmoil of the discovery.

In the background to the right, the draped fabric and a pillar with a statue atop it enhance the classical atmosphere of the narrative, while the presence of a dog and hunting tools on the ground nods to Diana’s role as the goddess of the hunt. The painting stands out not only for its mythological significance but also for Titian’s skillful rendering of the human form and his ability to capture the psychological complexities of the divine and mortal beings.

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