Diana and Her Companions

Diana and her Companions


Mauritshuis, The Hague (1653-1656)


Resource: http://www.essentialvermeer.com/catalogue/diana_and_her_companions.html



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

3 responses to “Diana and Her Companions

  1. It is a probable and convincing proposition to identify Vermeer’s influence in the painting of Diana and her Companions as the sophisticated 1648 version by Jacob van Loo. Not only the same subject, but the same moment of awareness and decision by the goddess who contemplates the fate of her close, pure and faithful follower, found to be pregnant through seductive trickery, by Zeus.
    The symbols in van Loo’s picture that dispose a rendering of the secret, still held close by Diana, that has just been communicated through the intrigue of her nymphs, speak in their quiet pictures of the impurity within the ranks of her friends. Pairs of women, in cells of communication, do not picture accusation, though the idea of whispered perpetuation of a story may be suggested from back to foreground with the figure openly opining to Diana; likely pointing the finger at Zeus. The women in the middle-ground are rife with unconscious, but damning accusation in the symbolism of their preparations to bathe. The shoe removed reveals the stocking, the Dutch word for which refers to the sensual part and is like calling a loose woman a “skirt” in derogatory terms. The other girl caresses her own foot, though placing her finger between the toes. Vermeer borrows this idea for sexual allusion in his work also. Van Loo’s painting pictures the male presence, in the pointing hound, possibly predicting the imminent arrival of Acteon, who is the other innocent compromiser of Diana’s sense of Purity, after Callisto. We are not certain which of the nymph’s is Callisto, though that dubious honour seems to fall to the one furthest right, who stands quietly beside her loquacious friend and waits. She is found in the felled bird with missing wing on the ground before Diana.
    Vermeer, I believe, does not copy the map of nymphs precisely from his mentor. He reinterprets and adds poignancy to the dire straits of the Callisto character, who I think is not the figure at the rear in the shadow, as is suggested very often. In Vermeer’s work, though Diana is dominant, it is the more central unassuming woman in red that is Callisto. She is unaware of the newfound knowledge that Diana has, which was shared by the dark figure who watches Diana with anticipation and great interest. Diana is about to confront the wayward nymph, who is next to Diana physically, as she was in the closeness of the followers of Diana; the very relationship that the curse of Zeus has threatened! She holds a toe of her foot in the sensual allusion that reveals the unconscious “sin” as she holds her unclean foot, while Diana’s foot shows the Purity of washing. The dark figure in the shadows is the dark manifestation of her secret that is almost in the light.

  2. The passing of British-born, itinerate preacher and consistent beacon in books and a humble life, John Stott, a mere Christian, quietly came today to pass as a profound loss to all, because of the One Truth, of which he was a worthy advocate. http://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2011/07/celebrating-the-life-and-ministry-of-john-stott/
    One can grieve, as one can for the millions of children who are missing and will never play, as this three-year-old girl, or even to suffer the lives we are born to and choices we all make.

    Our days are darker and will be darker because of the losses; but, also, due to the positive choices and the missing grief.
    Satan, the Ememy of God, who was Lucifer, an archangel, was not Apollo, brother of Diana the moon-goddess of ancient origin and veneration, as the evolution of false dieties “morphs” to ascribe. God is God – the same yesterday, today and forever. A contemporary stream of feminism has moved to revive Diana as feminine diety in Neo-pagan circles or Potnia-Theron (goddess of the animals) and as Gaia, the oldest version: Mother Earth. An hypothesis now extant in geo-science is the Gaia Theory or Hypothesis, which claims that the Earth’s processes, organic and inorganic, are a self-regulating system of perpetuation. Richard Dawkins, the scathing critic of things religious, claims the quest of these scientists for a largest living thing as psuedo-science.
    Apparently, Diana is called upon to fill a god-shaped void in the “reason” of geophysics; at least as analogy!
    The stories of Diana of mythology, in a sense, do picture an aspect of our relationship to God. The Acteon and Callisto injustices by Dianic treatments for their transgressions, at least, SEEM to reflect true Godly action in Biblical history. In IISamuel 6:3-7, Uzzah trys to save a toppling Arc of the Covenant from a cart (that carries the Presence of God), which he touches and then drops dead, has the implication of the “Otherness” of God – His vast superiority to humans and the Jealousy of His Personhood over all the creation. From our perspective, His Justice was not just, but God is not Man and and does not think like a man. The men had not obeyed His instruction on the treatment of His Arc. A man paid the consequence. Diana is claiming her purity is like God’s Holiness and superiority. As goddess, she can do no wrong to mere mortals.
    In Vermeer’s painting, he too takes a tack of the clothed nymphs of Jacob Van Loo. Except for the back of a woman prepared for bathing, only a strong highlighting of Diana’s breast is suggestive. The reason for the lack of nudity may also hinge on the suggested fact of the hidden breasts of the goddess as compared to the nymphs who serve her. It may, in Vermeer’s mind, have been a gross manifestation of Diana’s other personage or personification of Myth, as Artemis of the Ephesians! Has Vermeer been kind in not rendering, but only suggesting her attributes well known to the ancients?

    Is this the reason that Vermeer thinks that she is shy of Acteon’s gaze?
    The little dog, too is a humerous addition, as he passively sits beside the Thistle: symbol of a male. He is not the viscious hunting hound of either Acteon or Diana. Together they symbolize Acteon’s voyeurism (or ours) innocently perusing his host. Terborch painted “Woman Washing Her Hands in 1654; the same year that Diana was painted. His painting also has a sitting spaniel. His spaniel knowingly looks out to the viewer with someobject distinctly highlighted between its rear legs. This painting is a revolutionary revelation of the Vermeerian use of straight lines and orthogonals, which were never a part of Terborch’s oeuvre! The misalignment of all the orthogonals, especially the silver frame and the corner-to-corner diagonal of the gold one to end in the water basin’s bright highlight, appear as bad painting of perspective, but is the result,I am convinced of the conversations between these masters at the outset of Vermeer’s career. Perhaps, Vermeer’s hand was involved in the painting itself, which would possibly indicate Terborch as his Master.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s