'Diana and Callisto', c. 1757

Richard Wilson (1713 – 1782)

Oil on canvas, 103 x 139cm
Accession Number LL3122

Richard Wilson 'Diana and Callisto'

This painting, one of several known versions of the subject by Wilson, may have been executed during his stay in Italy between 1752 and 1757. It would have been intended for purchase by an aristocratic collector making the Grand Tour. It is a view of Lake Nemi, a beauty spot not far from Rome and familiar to readers of the classics for its association with the goddess Diana. The lake was known as Diana’s mirror and there was a shrine to her in the groves around the shore.

Wilson alludes to this connection by representing in the foreground the story of Diana and Callisto from Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’. The goddess has just discovered her handmaiden’s pregnancy by the king of the gods, Zeus and is banishing her.

The calm lucidity and order of Wilson’s design consciously recall French classical landscapes of the 17th century by Gasper Dughet and Claude Lorrain.

An extended study of 'Diana and Callisto' is also available online as part of our Artwork of the Month series.