Diana Discovering the Pregnancy of Callisto by Dirck van der Lisse
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Diana Discovering the Pregnancy of Callisto 1642

Dirck van der Lisse

Original oil on canvas
42.30 ⨯ 69.50 cm
Price on request


  • About the artwork
    Diana, the goddess of the Hunt, is seated with her back to the viewer on her white chemise and a red drapery. She is surrounded by her retinue of nymphs. The harvest of hours of hunting is lying near her,along with hunting gear. More nymphs bathe on the other side of the brook. It is a sunny day and the sky is azure blue

    Van der Lisse often depicted the story told among others by Ovid in his Metamorphoses of the hunter Acteaon who accidentally discovered the naked Diana and her female companions as they were bathing on Mount Cithaeron. To punish him she transformed him into a stag and next he was pursued and killed by his fifty hounds. There is no Actaeon to be discerned in our painting but it does seem the artist is implicitly referring to this widely known and often-depicted tale by putting the viewer in the role of voyeur and making him an Actaeon.

    On closer inspection it emerges that Van der Lisse is staging another story here. One of the nymphs on the opposite bank gets special attention from the others and she tries in vain to cover her belly with a piece of cloth. One nymph rushes across the stream towards Diana, as if she has an urgent message. The story as related, again, by Ovid of the nymph Callisto who was seduced by Jupiter in the guise of Diana, became pregnant and was expelled by the enraged Diana, since she only allowed virgins as her companions.

    The moral lesson conveyed by the depiction of the stories of Actaeon and Callisto were the same, as Eric Jan Sluijter points out: ‘They were examples of youths who succumbed to the temptations of the senses and consequently were ruined’. Both Actaeon and Callisto fell in disgrace. The former because he allowed his eyes to see Diana naked, the latter because she foolishly allowed her Jupiter to deceive her.

    Signed with ligated monogram bottom left: “DL”
  • About the artist

    Van der Lisse verhuisde in 1626 naar Utrecht, waar hij in de leer ging bij Cornelis van Poelenburch. Rond 1635 kreeg hij samen met Van Poelenburch en twee andere schilders van prins Frederik Hendrik een opdracht voor schilderijen voor het Huis Honselaarsdijk.

    Tussen 1635 en 1640 woonde hij afwisselend in Utrecht en Den Haag, tot hij zich definitief weer in Den Haag vestigde. Hij werd in 1644 lid van het Haagse Sint-Lucasgilde. Hij was daarnaast als schepen actief in het bestuur van de stad. In 1656 was Van der Lisse betrokken bij de oprichting van het kunstenaarsgenootschap Confrerie Pictura. Aanvankelijk schilderde hij vooral italianiserende landschappen, waarin ook geregeld mythologische figuren een rol speelden. In zijn latere leven schilderde hij meer portretten. Van 1659 tot aan zijn overlijden was hij verscheidene keren burgemeester van Den Haag.

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