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Diana and Actaeon 1556 - 1559

Not on display

While out hunting, Actaeon accidentally discovered the secret bathing place of Diana, goddess of the moon and hunt. Titian explored the dramatic impact of this intrusion through a dynamic arrangement of figures, sparkling light, intense colour and animated brushwork.The stag's skull on the plinth foretells Actaeon's fate, for the outraged goddess transformed him into a stag to be devoured by his own hounds. The picture is one of a series of famous mythological paintings Titian called 'poesie', made for King Phillip II of Spain. The subjects were based on the ancient Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses. Titian planned the canvases as pairs, making 'Diana and Callisto' the partner to this work.

Glossary Open


Refers to figures and events from myths which are the ancient stories that usually explain the origins of historical or natural phenomena.

Ovid's Metamorphoses

A poem in fifteen books by the Roman poet, Ovid, which tells the story of the creation and history of the world according to Greek and Roman mythology.


A term, meaning 'poetry', used by Titian for paintings of mythological subjects derived from literary sources. He painted a series of these for King Philip II of Spain with subject matter taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Mythological, Ovid's Metamorphoses, Poesie


  • Acc. No. NG 2839
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Size 184.50 x 202.20 cm
  • Credit Purchased jointly by the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Gallery, London, with contributions from The Scottish Government, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, The Monument Trust, the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation), Artemis Investment Management Ltd, Binks Trust, Mr Busson on behalf of EIM Group, Dunard Fund, The Fuserna Foundation, Gordon Getty, The Hintze Family Charitable Foundation, J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, John Dodd, Northwood Charitable Trust, The Rothschild Foundation, Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement and through public appeal 2009