ⓘ Diana (Renoir painting)


ⓘ Diana (Renoir painting)

Diana is a painting from 1867 by the French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. It depicts the painters lover Lise Trehot as the Roman goddess Diana.


1. Subject and composition

The subject is Diana from Roman mythology in her capacity as a huntress. The nude goddess sits on a large stone with her right foot on an elevated perch. Her stretched arms lean on her bow. Below her is a deer with its neck pierced by an arrow.

The painting began as a nude study with a posed model in a studio. It follows the conventions of academic art as typified by the Salon at the time. The model was Renoirs mistress and recurring model Lise Trehot. According to the painter, he added the attributes of Diana because "the picture was considered pretty improper", and turning it into a mythological subject would make it more acceptable. Details such as the blood coming from the deers mouth and the moss on the rocks surface, as well as the use of a palette knife to apply paint, show influences from the Realist painter Gustave Courbet. The bright green colours and red accents are however more reminiscent of the Impressionism Renoir would become associated with a few years later.

Although Trehot is generally accepted to be the model, the art historian Michael F. Zimmermann said in 2012 that it is "probably not" her.


2. Provenance

The painting was submitted to the 1867 Salon but was rejected. Renoir had previously exhibited a painting at the Salon in 1864 although he destroyed it after the exhibition closed. In 1868 his Portrait of Lise was accepted to the Salon. Diana was in private collections until 1963 when Chester Dale, who had bought it in 1933 from Etienne Bignou, bequeathed it to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. It is on view in the museums West Building, Main Floor – Gallery 90.


3. Reception

Peter H. Feist has called the painting "a beautifully accurate nude, without the coarseness of Courbets Bathers 14 years before" and "far more healthy and realistic than - as Zola put it - the pampered, lustful nudes, powdered with rice flour, of the fashionable painters of that time".