Diana at Rest

Full image.



Léon Davent
French, active ca. 1540–1560
after Francesco Primaticcio, Italian, 1504–1570
Diana at Rest, after 1547
Gift of Theodore B. Donson, Class of 1960

Given the forested setting of François I’s château of Fontainebleau, in which this image was certainly made, the centrality of Diana, the goddess of the hunt, is not surprising. As we see in this and many other images originating from Fontainebleau, Diana is shown not only in her role as huntress, but also in a position of power over men. Here, the goddess, though elegantly extended on the ground, is still at the ready; she is accompanied by two hounds, one of which pokes his head affectionately through her bowed arm, and three game animals, a stag, a boar, and a badger, who all bow to her.


But Primaticcio intends Diana’s dominion of another sort over us, the (presumed male) hunter coming upon her in the forest; fixing us with a seductive gaze, Diana pulls an arrow from her quiver to indicate that the viewer is her next quarry.  The decorations at Fontainebleau are permeated with this combination of the ennoblement of the hunt and the power of Diana over the hunter, an idea that both François I and his son Henri II seem to have greatly enjoyed. The ubiquity of Diana at Fontainebleau also has very much to do with the important role at court of the beautiful and wise Diane de Poitiers, tutor and later mistress to Henri II. Like her namesake, Diane was also a formidable hunter and rider, which must have both impressed and further endeared her to her likeminded royal counterparts. We see Diane’s device, the upturned crescent moon, on the goddess’s brow.