Purchase, The Charles Engelhard Foundation, Robert Lehman Foundation Inc., Mrs. Haebler Frantz, April R. Axton, L. H. P. Klotz, and David Mortimer Gifts; and Gifts of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, George Blumenthal, and J. Pierpont Morgan, Bequests of Millie Bruhl Fredrick and Mary Clark Thompson, and Rogers Fund, by exchange, 1982
The picture was painted for Sir Humphrey Morice (1723–1785), son of a wealthy merchant and director of the Bank of England. Morice was a great animal lover and commissioned from Batoni a portrait of himself reclining in the Roman countryside after the hunt as a pendant to this picture, which shows the goddess of the hunt withholding the bow from Cupid. The picture was considered the finest Batoni had ever painted. The figure of Diana is based on the celebrated ancient statue of the sleeping Ariadne in the Vatican, which Batoni has invested with extraordinary warmth and feeling.
A leading painter in eighteenth-century Rome, the Lucchese painter Pompeo Batoni was especially popular as a portraitist of milords on the Grand Tour. This picture was commissioned by Sir Humphry Morice shortly after his arrival in Rome in spring 1761: the artist’s receipt for the picture (for which, see Ashburnham 1793) reads as follows: "Io sottoscritto mi obbligo a consegnar il qua / dro di Diana e Cupido a che mi pagherà / trecento zecchini il patto fatto con signor / Morice Inglese per il medesimo quadro / il primo di d'Aprile 1762 / Pompeo Batoni" (I the undersigned oblige myself to consign the picture of Diana and Cupid to he who pays me 300 zecchini according to the agreement made with the Englishman Signor Morice for the same picture the first of April, 1762. Pompeo Batoni [see Bowron 1982]). In 1762 Morice then commissioned a full-length portrait showing himself reclining in the Roman countryside with three hounds and some game as a pendant (the original, dated 1762 or 1763, is in the collection of the late Sir Richard Graham, Norton Conyers, Yorkshire; an autograph replica is in the collection of Brinsley Ford [see Bowron 1982]). Diana is the goddess of the hunt, and the two pictures would have made effective pendants. In the MMA picture Diana holds Cupid's bow out of his reach, an action that is probably intended as a reproof, since Cupid's use of the bow was considered capricious and misdirected (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 1, lines 455ff.). The picture was highly praised in Rome and was considered the finest work by the artist (Bull 1787). Christiansen (1983) has noted its strongly Neoclassical design, with the Diana inspired by a famous Roman statue in the Vatican. He also suggests that the picture may have been conceived as a response by Batoni to his rival, Anton Raphael Mengs (see MMA 48.141, 2010.445).
[Keith Christiansen 2011]
Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed (bottom): Pompeo·Batoni·di Lucca·dipingeua·in Roma 1761·
Sir Humphry Morice, The Grove, Chiswick (1762–86; purchased from the artist for 300 zecchini; sold entire collection for £4000 to Ashburnham); John, 2nd Earl of Ashburnham, Ashburnham Place, Westminster (1786–d. 1812; inv., 1793, p. 5); his son, George, 3rd Earl of Ashburnham, Ashburnham Place (1812–24; sale, Christie's, London, June 18, 1824, no. 121, as "Venus threatening to break Cupid's bow, in a landscape," for 50 gns. to Dixie); Estate of Miss M. G. Witten (until 1933; sale, Christie's, London, March 31, 1933, no. 110, as "Diana with Cupid's Bow," for 195 gns. to Williams and Sutch); private collection, London (1933–82; sale, Christie's, London, July 9, 1982, no. 70, for £140,400 to Colnaghi); [Colnaghi, New York, 1982; sold to MMA]
New York. Colnaghi. "Pompeo Batoni (1708–1787)," November 17–December 18, 1982, no. 19 (as "Diana Breaking Cupid's Bow").
Frankfurt. Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie. "Mehr Licht: Europa um 1770, die bildende Kunst der Aufklärung," August 22, 1999–January 9, 2000, no. 7.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "Pompeo Batoni: Prince of Painters in Eighteenth-Century Rome," October 21, 2007–January 27, 2008, no. 48.
London. National Gallery. "Pompeo Batoni: Prince of Painters in Eighteenth-Century Rome," February 20–May 18, 2008, no. 48.
Richard Bull. Letter to Lord Ashburnham. February 15, 1787 [Northumberland Record Office, f. 106: 554/54; relevant excerpt published in Bowron 1982], states that "The Diana and Cupid was painted under the direction of Sir William Hamilton, and the receit shews how highly Pompeo rated it. It was thought at Rome to be the best picture he ever made, which perhaps is not saying a great deal".
John Ashburnham, 2nd Earl of Ashburnham. Inventory of John 2nd Earl of Ashburnham's collections at Ashburnham Place. 1793, p. 5 [National Gallery, London], typescript, annotated in long-hand, inscribed: "Orginal receipt from Batoni—Io sottoscritto me obbligo a consegnare il quadro di Diana e Cupido a che mi pagherà trecento zecchini il patto fatto con Signor Morice, Inglese per il medesimo quadro il primo d'Aprile 1762, Pompeo Batoni".
Frank Davis. "Singular Art." Country Life (September 1982), pp. 738–39, fig. 3, calls it "Diana Breaking Cupid's Bow".
Edgar Peters Bowron. Pompeo Batoni (1708–87) and His British Patrons. Exh. cat., Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood. London, 1982, pp. 20, 24 n. 85, p. 45, under no. 16, refers to it as "Venus and Cupid"; publishes the receipt from Lord Ashburnham's inventory and Bull's letter of 1787; discusses the life of Humphrey Morice, who purchased the picture from Batoni in 1762; suggests that Morice commissioned his full-length portrait now in the collection of Brinsley Ford in the same year.
Denys Sutton. "Aspects of British Collecting, Part II: VIII, From Rome to Naples." Apollo 116 (December 1982), p. 408, fig. 1, states that "Diana Breaking Cupid's Bow" was painted as a pendant to the portrait of Humphrey Morice in the Brinsley Ford Collection
Edgar Peters Bowron. Pompeo Batoni (1708–1787). Exh. cat., Colnaghi. New York, 1982, pp. 10, 46–47, no. 19, ill., calls it "Diana Breaking Cupid's Bow"; suggests that the full-length portrait of Morice (Sir James Graham, Norton Conyers, Yorkshire; autograph replica with Brinsley Ford, London) may have been commissioned as a pendant to this mythological scene, with which it shares nearly identical dimensions, conformity of pose, and similarities among the dogs and landscapes; adds that the Colnaghi Diana may originally have been intended as a pair to a canvas representing "Diana Awakened by a Nymph" (private collection, Milan) which appears to have been left unfinished.
Francis Russell in "The Diana and Cupid of Batoni." Christie's Review of the Season 1982. Oxford, 1983, p. 22, ill. p. 23 (color), suggests that Morice commissioned the picture in the spring of 1761; identifies it as "a key work in that sequence of historical pictures in which [Batoni] anticipates the more rigorous neoclassicism of the following generation"; believes that the composition of the full-length portrait of Morice was conceived, however loosely, as a pendant to his "Diana and Cupid".
Hugh Brigstocke. "Classical Painting in Rome in the Age of the Baroque." Apollo 117 (March 1983), p. 60, compares it with Giovanni Battista Gaulli's "Diana the Huntress" (Minneapolis Institute of Arts), which predates Batoni's picture by seventy years.
Keith Christiansen inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1982–1983. New York, 1983, pp. 39–40, ill. (color), notes that "Diana holds Cupid's bow out of reach, as though reproving the boy for misusing it"; states that the belief that William Hamilton was involved in the planning of the picture (Bull 1787) is incorrect, as he did not assume his position as envoy to the Court of Naples until three years after this picture was painted; adds, however, that Hamilton would surely have approved of its strongly neoclassical design; notes that the figure of Diana is based on the ancient sculpture of the "Sleeping Ariadne" (Vatican Museums), and suggests that since Batoni rarely employed specific classical models in mythological paintings, the "Diana and Cupid" may have been conceived as a response to his rival, Anton Raphael Mengs, and Mengs' mentor, J. J. Winkelmann; states that Morice commissioned a full-length portrait as a pendant to it, "one version, signed and dated 1762, is in the collection of the late Sir Richard Graham . . . and an autograph replica is in the collection of Brinsley Ford".
Anthony M. Clark. Pompeo Batoni. Ed. Edgar Peters Bowron. Oxford, 1985, pp. 245, 280–81, no. 235, colorpl. 13.
Colnaghi in America: A Survey to Commemorate the First Decade of Colnaghi New York. Ed. Nicholas H. J. Hall. New York, 1992, pp. 94, 95, 131, ill. (color, overall and detail), calls it "Diana Breaking Cupid's Bow"; notes that Batoni rarely based his mythological compositions on specific antique sources, but modeled the figure of Diana on the Vatican's celebrated "Ariadne".
Beate Christine Mirsch inMehr Licht: Europa um 1770, die bildende Kunst Aufklärung. Ed. Herbert Beck, Peter C. Bol, and Maraike Bückling. Exh. cat., Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt. Munich, 1999, pp. 24–25, no. 7, ill. (color), identifies it as the model for Angelica Kauffmann's "Ariadne Discovered by Bacchus on the Island of Naxos" (Amt der Landeshauptstad, Kultur, Bregenz) of 1764 and her "Bacchus and Ariadne" (Attingham, Shropshire) of between 1769 and 1773
Edgar Peters Bowron and Peter Björn Kerber. Pompeo Batoni: Prince of Painters in Eighteenth-Century Rome. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New Haven, 2007, pp. 49, 62, 176, 179, 187 n. 69, p. 188 n. 131, no. 48, fig. 59 (color).
Colnaghi, Past, Present and Future: An Anthology. Ed. Tim Warner-Johnson and Jeremy Howard. London, 2016, pp. 132–33, colorpl. 43.
Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, p. 420, no. 285, ill. pp. 303, 420 (color).