This painting would probably originally have had a pendant of the Caledonian Boar Hunt
, for at least one complete such pair has survived.1
Although no certain original for the Caledonian Boar Hunt
has survived, Arnout Balis has suggested that the prototype for the Hunt of Diana
may be the painting with Colnaghi in the 1980s and now in an American private collection, in which the only difference is that the landscape has been extended slightly to the right.2
In each case in the originals, Rubens would have been responsible for the figures, while the painting of the deer was assigned to a second painter, in this case Rubens' frequent collaborator Paul de Vos (1591–1678), and the landscape added by a third painter, most likely Jan Wildens (1586–1653) or his atelier. The source of the original commission is, however, unknown. Balis observes that 'Due quadri, uno... e l'altro La Caccia al cervo, originale del famoso Rubens pittore Fiammingo...
' ('two paintings, one... the other a Deer Hunt, an original by the famous Flemish painter Rubens') recorded in the 1730 inventory of the Marchese Guidi di Bagno in Cesena might have belonged to his forebear Gian Francesco Guidi di Bagno (1578–1641), who was Papal Nuncio in the Netherlands between 1621 and 1627, and a personal friend of Rubens, but they do not appear in his inventory of 1641.3
1. See A. Balis, Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard. Part XVIII: II. Hunting scenes, Oxford 1986, pp. 208–13 under cat. nos 17 and 18, copies no. 1 and no. 2 respectively. These may well be those recorded in Cesena in 1730 (see note 3 below);
2. Balis, op. cit., 1986, p. 209, cat. no. 17, reproduced fig. 98. The wider landscape is the result of an additional section of canvas being added at a later date.
3. Ibid., p. 208.