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Diana and Endymion

Artist or maker:
Huet, Jean-Baptiste (b.1745, d.1811)
Date:
1778
Place of production:
Paris, France
Medium:
oil on canvas
Type of object:
paintings
Accession number:
59.2

Commentary

A pair of oval paintings showing goddesses attending their lovers are rare examples of Jean-Baptiste Huet's mythological paintings. This painting and its pendant (acc. no. 59.1) relate to prints that may have publicised Huet's ability with this type of subject matter and encouraged a patron to commission them. Huet's figure of Diana is very similar to that in the print.

Huet became a member of the Académie royale de peinture et sculpture in 1769 as a painter of animal subjects. He also painted pictures of idealised peasants as well as groups of cupids. He designed cartoons for tapestries made by the manufactory at Beauvais and textile patterns for the Oberkampf manufactory. He exhibited paintings at the Salon until 1789. In 1779, he showed a painting of 'Hercules and Omphale' which was not well received. It was Huet's first exhibition of a history painting. The critics widely felt it was a failure and he should have stuck to painting animals (see C. Gabillot, 'Les Hüet: Jean Baptiste et ses trois fils', Paris, 1903, pp. 65-70). The Waddesdon paintings, also of mythological subjects, were made around the same time as the 1779 Salon painting.

Huet was often inspired by the works of François Boucher. Gilles Demarteau (1722-1776) and his nephew Gilles-Antoine (1750-1802) engraved works after Huet in crayon manner in full colour, replicating the appearance of pastel. These engravings helped publicise Huet's compositions. Huet designed a decorative panel with figures of Diana and Venus in 1773, engraved by Gilles Demarteau, but this did not have the figures of Adonis or Endymion.

Huet's painting of Diana and Endymion is related to a coloured print after Huet engraved by J. Auguste l'Eveillé and sold by Gilles-Antoine Demarteau from his address in the Cloître Saint-Benoît after 1776. L'Eveillé also made some prints of cupids, peasants and tapestry designs after Huet between 1783-1785 (see Bibliothèque nationale de France, Marcel Roux; Inventaire du fonds français: graveurs du dix-huitième siècle; 15 vols; Paris; 1930-2004; pp. 488, 499). There is a related engraving of Jupiter in the guise of Diana and Callisto. These two engravings are oval in format like the present paintings. Huet may have made the Waddesdon paintings after someone bought and liked the engravings and commissioned painted versions. The pendant painting (acc. no. 59.1) does not relate to a known print, but there may have been a related engraving yet to be identified.

In the print, Diana's face is in profile and her right arm is down. The putto is standing next to her rather than flying as in the painting. In the print, Endymion's face turns to the right, not to the left, and his right hand lies across his lap. The position of Diana's right foot, Endymion's left arm, and the dog are all identical. In the print, the light appears as daytime and Diana wears a crescent moon on her forehead, whereas in the painting there is an emphasis on the night sky and the actual moon. Huet may have wanted to contrast the daytime scene of Venus and Adonis with that of Diana and Endymion that occurred at night.

In classical mythology, Venus and Diana were both goddesses who fell in love with mortals. Diana, goddess of the moon, fell in love with the beautiful shepherd Endymion whilst he was asleep. Some accounts of the myth tell that Diana put Endymion into an eternal sleep so she could visit him each night and admire his beauty. One account says they had 50 children together. In Huet's painting, the goddess' power over her lover is demonstrated in the positioning of her above him and looking over his sleeping form.

The companion painting (acc. no. 59.1) has a label on the back that suggests the name of a previous owner was Félix Blachet.

Phillippa Plock, 2011

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
1016 x 816 (oval image)
965 x 800 - sight
Signature & date:
signed and dated, lower left, on rock: J. B. hüet 1778
Marks:
CHENUE EMBALLEUR
Stamp
on verso, on clamps
Inscriptions:
Right of Robel
Inscription

No. 17
Inscription

R
Inscription

62
Inscription

Bedroom corridor, Huet, opposite terrace, sitting room left
Inscription

TL
Inscription
Labels:
[Part torn label of Chenue, London]
Printed label
on verso

History

Provenance:
Owned by Félix Blachet, active 19th century; acquired by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (b.1839, d.1898); inherited by his sister Alice de Rothschild (b.1847, d.1922); inherited by her great-nephew James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); accepted by The Treasury Solicitor in lieu of taxes on the Estate of Mr James de Rothschild in 1963; given to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1990.
Collection:
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Waddesdon Manor, 1990

Bibliography

Bibliography

Ellis Waterhouse, Anthony Blunt; Paintings: The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; Fribourg; Office du Livre, The National Trust; 1967; p. 244, cat. no. 111, ill.

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