From its imposing size to its refined execution, this painting is elegant testimony to Corot’s ingenuity: the landscape appears surprisingly natural, yet it is painstakingly composed. The narrative, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, recounts the fate of a young hunter Actaeon as he encounters the naked figure of the goddess Diana and her nymphs enjoying a woodland bath. Diana, in a fit of embarrassed fury, splashes water on the unwitting hunter, transforming him into a deer. There is a marked difference between the general tight handling of paint and tonal contrasts, and the background on the left, which is sketchy and silvery in tone, typical of Corot’s late style. A year before the artist died, he was asked to repaint this passage as a courtesy to the picture’s new owner.
Signature: Signed and dated (lower right) COROT 1836
Lenormant, Paris; Bouvier-Lenormant, by descent, Paris; sold to Reitlinger et Tédesco, Paris, 1873; Gellinard Collection, Paris, until 1888; Gellinard Collection sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, March 19, 1888, lot 41; Mellerio Collection, Paris, 1894; Anonymous sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, March 23, 1908, no. 13; Bessonneau d'Angers Collection; his son-in-law (?) M. Frappier, by 1923; Mme Frappier, by 1925 until at least 1930; Bessonneau d'Angers Collection sale, Galerie Charpentier, June 15, 1954, lot 22; acquired at the Bessonneau d'Angers sale, through Charles Durand-Ruel, by Robert Lehman, New York, 1954.