Tuesday, 5 April 2016

D = Diana en haar Nimfen


Vermeer was 21 years old when he started this painting. A classic subject of Diana and her Companions. In Dutch Nimfen (nymphs). 
 



In this painting, Diana can only be recognised by the crescent moon she is wearing in her hair and by the hunting dog that is sitting next to her. As for the nymphs, two of them are simply resting on the rock and another one is cleaning Diana’s feet using a brass water basin. This water basin has Christian undertones. In addition, there is a fourth nymph who keeps herself apart and contemplates the scene from a certain distance, as if she were trying to hide something. She is Callisto, and what she is hiding is her own pregnancy, indeed. The problem is that when Diana chose her nymphs, she made them all take the vow of chastity. Obviously, Callisto broke it when she became pregnant. Diana is not aware of this issue in the scene, but the legend says that when she found out about Callisto’s pregnancy, Diana turned Callisto into a bear and expelled her from the court because she felt betrayed. Therefore, this is the reason why Callisto is dressed in black, and her dressing clearly contrasts the brightness on the foreground – which is emphasised by the women’s bright dresses – with the darkness on the background. As it can be noticed, there is nothing one can see on the background of the painting apart from a tree and absolute darkness.

Apart from that, it can be observed that Diana is placed in the middle of a circle created by the nymphs. The circularity of the painting is then conveying the idea of unity, balance and restfulness. At the same time it suggests the relationship between the goddess and her nymphs is quite close and comfortable. However, Diana has never been described as a relaxed goddess, but quite as the opposite. She is characterised by her bad temper and this is made evident in the moment when Actaeon breaks in. This is the true Diana, and not the one portrayed in this particular scene. She could have imagined that a masculine figure is about to appear though, since there is a thistle between her and the dog. This plant is the first that blooms in spring, and it also a symbol of masculinity. However, everything points at the fact that the goddess was not aware of this little detail, since her reaction may have been different if she knew that a man was going to interrupt her sacred moment. Unfortunately for him, Diana has also human characteristics, and this put an end to the hunter’s life.

 Different kind of painting

 Vermeer may have wished to cater to the classical tastes of the nearby court at The Hague where the figure of Diana was in vogue. The Diana theme had been commissioned by such successful Dutch artists as Gerrit van Honthorst, Jacob van Campen and the Delft artist Christiaen Van Couwenbergh.
Why Vermeer abandoned the path of history painting soon after is unknown. Perhaps he came to realize that although he was a talented painter of biblical and mythological scenes, his true genius lay in his ability to convey a comparable sense of dignity and purpose in images drawn from daily life. More banally, it cannot be ruled out that the support he expected as a history painter did not materialize or that his patron-to-be Pieter van Ruijven had guided the budding artist towards a more "modern" approach.

http://mauritshuis.nl/en/explore/the-collection/artworks/diana-and-her-nymphs-406/)

8 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing all the background regarding this painting, Han...puts a whole different spin on it. ;)

    Hugs and blessings...Cat

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    Replies
    1. Yes, never paid attention to thistle before. A symbol of masculinity, who would have thought...

      Smile,
      Han

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  2. Love it, thank you..
    Now I will look at this scene of variouse painters, with a different knowledge.

    Mona Lisa

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    1. Yes, I love it myself to read so background on the painting, so you can understand the context better. I'm glad you do as well, Mona Lisa.

      Smile,
      Han

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  3. Wow! Amazing she got such a late start yet was such an extraordinary painter.

    I’m exploring different types of dreams and their meanings.
    Stephen Tremp’s Breakthrough Blogs

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    Replies
    1. Not sure what you mean by late start, Stephen. Johannes Vermeer began as an apprentice at an early age like most painters did. His father was an art dealer and so he would have learned to appreciate art at a very young age.

      Thank you for your comment, Stephen,
      Han

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  4. I always find the construction of paintings fascinating when explained so clearly. It's like having a walking tour in a gallery. Thank you.
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

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    Replies
    1. You are too kind, Tasha. Thank you. The painting really only gets alive when you know more about it...

      Thank you for your comment,
      Han

      Delete

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