Gouache on vellum, glued at the edges to a copper plate
Unframed: 4 3/4 x 3 7/8 in.
Framed: 7 3/8 x 6 1/4 x 1 in.
The goddess Diana seems to stare directly back at the viewers of this fascinating watercolor scene, disrupting and complicating the usual relationship between artistic representation and spectator. Werner positions the beholder in the role of Actaeon, an unfortunate hunter in Ovid’s poem Metamorphoses, who accidentally discovers the virgin goddess in the mountain valley as she commences her midday bath. The artist does not show the violent outcome of the tale: an enraged Diana transforms Actaeon into a stag, condemning him to be devoured by his own hounds. Instead, he alludes to her fury by depicting the moment the goddess notices Actaeon’s presence. The stone bridge, which also appears in Ovid’s tale, serves as a frame for an Italianate mountain range reminiscent of the landscapes of Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665). A lecherous river god peers down from atop the natural bridge to secretly spy on the goddess as she bathes. The viewer is implicated in this act of voyeurism and simultaneously invited to admire the beauty of the landscape through a peephole crafted by both nature and art.
The Jordan and Thomas A. Saunders III Collection

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