This beautifully preserved and highly elegant small-scale work on copper, painted around the turn of the seventeenth century, is both a summation of Heintz’ art and a paradigm of the sensuousness and imaginative fantasy of Mannerism. Set in a watery cave, but strongly lit, it depicts the moment described by Ovid when the pregnancy of the nymph Callisto resulting from her liaison with Jupiter is uncovered by Diana and her other nymphs, one of whom raises the red cloth covering Callisto to reveal her gravid torso, while Diana sits enthroned in judgement, the extended fingers of her right hand raised in admonition.1 The pallid flesh of the nymphs, their muscled thighs and etiolated arms are painted with an extreme degree of tautness as if they were engaged in a balletic performance for the viewer. In the distance, a priapic Satyr prances before another group of nymphs at the mouth of the cave. In his choice of subject matter in this and other paintings of Ovidian subjects, Heintz was almost certainly influenced by Titian's Poesie. Although he would not have known in the original the great Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto painted for Phillip II, copies made by Titian's workshop abounded, and a Diana and Callisto, now in Vienna, was in the collection of Rudolf II (see fig. 1).2 Heintz painted a Diana and Actaeon circa 1600, also now in Vienna, which owes a similar debt to Titian's treatment of the subject.3
This composition is known in two paintings: the present picture and a copy, probably dating from the early seventeenth century, also on copper and of similar dimensions (47.7 by 33.3 cm.), first noted in 1934 and last recorded in 1988 in the Heinz collection in Berlin.4 The reverse of the copy in inscribed thus: Original V. Kayserlichem gewesten hoffmaller Heintz gemahlt. 1601 ('the original was painted by the Imperial Court Painter Heintz in 1601'). Although Zimmer states that the present picture was in the collection of the Leipzig banker Gottfried Winkler in 1768, he goes on to suggest that it is probably the copy and not the present picture that was in the Winkler collection. Both paintings are on a copper support, while the work in the Winkler collection is listed in Kreichauf’s 1768 catalogue as on wooden panel. Zimmer however thinks that despite this inconsistency, there can be no doubt about the identification, since Kreichauf’s description of the work is very precise: 'Die nackenden Nymphen der Jagd entdecken ihrer Gebietherin die Schwangerschaft der Caliston. Diana sitzt zur Rechten, einem zierlichen Springbrunnen gegenüber. Über ihr ist ein Teppich, am Arme eines dürren Baumes aufgehangen. Ein klarer Bach durchrinnt die Höhle und umfließt ihren verzierten steinernen Sitz. Vor ihr sinkt die Geliebte des Jupiters hin, und kehret ihre Blicke beschämt nieder zur Erde. Eine ihrer Gespielinnen, die sie umringen, entwendet ihr das rothe Gewand, welches ihren hohen Leib den Augen der Göttin verbarg. In der Ferne überraschet ein neugieriger Satyr die badebden Schönen, beym gewölbten Zugange der beschatteten Kluft. Auf Holz. 1 Fuß 8 Zoll hoch, 1 Fuß 1 Zoll breit. Dieses Gemälde ist 1602 angefertigt.'
Joseph Heintz made a finished drawing of the present composition, now in Berlin, at the Kupferstichkabinett (see fig. 2).5 Both the style of the drawing and its refined technique – pen and brown ink, grey-brown wash heightened with white on light brown prepared paper – suggest that it was created as an independent drawing for presentation or sale and was not conceived in preparation for the present painting. It is unlikely that it preceded the painting and was almost certainly created afterwards – Zimmer uses the word Reflex to define its likely relationship with the present work.6 That it was formerly signed in monogram, and is of almost the same dimensions underscores this.
A sketchy drawing of Diana and Callisto by Joseph Heintz in Harburg, datable circa 1595–1600, reveals a possible early idea for the present composition, although its oval shape suggests that it was originally intended for a silver or bronze plaquette, or perhaps a small oval painting (see fig. 3).7
A much weaker drawn copy, probably based on the painting rather than the Berlin drawing and attributed to Anton Gasser is known (see fig. 4).8
The dates 1602 in the Winkler catalogue and 1601 on the reverse of the painted copy are not to be depended on, but they at least point to a likely approximate dating. Since a dating of between 1598 and 1601 is plausible on grounds of style, either may provide a terminus ante quem.
1 Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book II, verses 441–65.
2 Titian and Workshop, Diana and Callisto, oil on canvas, 183 by 200 cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, inv. GG-71.
3 Joseph Heintz the Elder, Diana and Actaeon, signed in monogram, oil on copper, 40 by 49 cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, inv. GG-1115.
4 See Zimmer under Literature, 1971, p. 99, no. A 17.0.2., and 1988, pp. 137–38, under no. A 59. It appeared in the sale catalogue of the Intern. Kunst u. Auktionshaus, Kat. 211, 1934, lot 405, was with Galerie Springer in 1971 and in 1988 was in the Heinz collection in Berlin. Zimmer notes the hardness of handling and weaknesses in the copy, and excludes the possibility that it could be autograph.
5 No. 10476; inv. no. 3638; 44.6 by 31 cm.; see Zimmer under Literature, 1988, pp. 137–38, no. A 59, reproduced figs 98 and 99, and colour plate VI (facing p. 128).
6 Zimmer 1988, p. 138.
7 Harburg/Ries, Fürstl. Oettingen-Wallerstein’sche Kunstsammlung (Bibliothek), Kasten 11 no. 55; Black chalk over graphite indications on paper, oval, 20 by 15.2 cm.; see Zimmer 1988, p. 143, no. A 69, reproduced fig. 104.
8 Kunstmuseum, Basel. Pen and grey ink and wash heightened with white on yellow-toned paper, 48 by 33.5 cm.; see Zimmer 1971, p. 99, no. A 17.0.3, reproduced fig. 47 and 1988, p. 137, under no. A 59.
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