Diana and her Companions
Mauritshuis, The Hague (1653-1656)
Winter was already gone and under an amazingly bright sun, nature came to life again . Different colour tonalities appeared everywhere. The lands were covered by a carpet made of green grass and daisies were in the grass as stars in a starry night. Buds were opening and insects started to court them. With the melt of the mountains, the flow of the river raised and fishes started to prepare their mating.
It was a perfect day for hunting. Diana and her companions set out early in the morning with the aim of bringing some food for dinner. With the arrival of spring animals used to go out from their burrows so the girls knew it was going to be a successful hunting day. They spent the entire day hunting until the sun got tired and decided to disappear. With the banish of the exhausted sun, the dark night came. That nightfall could be interpreted
as a reference to the relation between Diana and Selene (Goddess of the Moon). That relationship was clearly seen in Diana as she was wearing a tiara decorated with a half moon. Diana was also both goddess of hunting and image of chastity.
Diana and the nymphs were also tired so they decided to sit down on a rock to have a rest after their hard working day. One of the nymphs had her back to the rest and she left her back lightly bare. Another nymph started to clean Diana’s foot, preparing her for the bath, while a third one, dressed in dark clothes, was contemplating the scene. The fourth nymph, with blue skirt and red bodice, was trying to relax her exhausted feet.
While Diana was taking her everyday bath accompanied by her nymphs, no man could interrupt or even contemplate that moment. But the presence of the dog and the thistle (image of masculinity) were announcing the immediate appearance of a masculine figure. Unfortunately, that prediction came true and Acteon (Cadmo’s grandson _founder of Tebas_) broke that special moment.
Acteon stopped in a stream with the aim of quenching his thirst. By chance, that was Diana’s favourite stream. She used to take there her daily bath so Acteon surprised when he saw the goddess naked. Diana noticed his presence. The goddess had such irritation that decided to cast a spell on him. She, then, threw some bewitched water drops to Acteon. Those drops transformed the young man into a deer. He was really frightened when he saw that his human body became now into a body of an animal so he escaped running as fast as the wind. But his hunting dogs, confused by the transformation, followed him. But where they saw a young man, there was now a deer. Dogs, also hungry because of the long hunting day, did not think twice and jumped over Acteon. He was devoured by his own dogs.
Diana and her companions, when they finished with the bath, took the road towards their place. Girls were returning home as nothing had happened. That starry night became suddenly the unique witness of Acteon’s disappearance.
Posted by Iturbe