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Work Diana and Endymion

Department of Prints and Drawings: 17th century

Diane et Endymion

Prints and Drawings
17th century

Author(s):
Grollemund Hélène

Although born in Vienna and trained by a Bavarian artist, Seiter is considered an Italian, his influences and entire career being centered in Italy. He entered the service of the Duke of Savoy in 1688, and this large drawing is testimony to his work in Turin: it is one of the preparatory stages for his ceiling in the queen's bedroom in the Palazzo Reale.

A turbulent idyll

Upright in a chariot drawn by two fiery stags, a woman crosses the sky against the clear light of the moon. Leaning to the left, she contemplates a young man slumbering on a rock. Below, two satyrs - one erect and dazzled, the other still asleep - lead the eye towards the principal figures. On the right three putti contribute to the sound and fury of the composition: one is blowing a horn as another attempts to silence him and a third blocks his ears. The story is that of Diana and Endymion, the beauteous young shepherd with whom the goddess fell violently in love. At her request Zeus granted Endymion eternal sleep. In some versions of the myth, however, it was during this untroubled sleep that Diana first saw and became enamored of Endymion.

In the employ of the duke

This is a sketch for a ceiling Seiter painted in 1693-94 in Duke Victor Amadeus' former bedroom in the Palazzo Reale in Turin - the room now known as the Camera da Dormire della Regina. Another preparatory drawing is in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle: similar in size, it offers a more developed composition whose lower part closely resembles that of the finished painting. On the other hand, the figure of Diana on the ceiling is taken almost unchanged from the Louvre version. This was Seiter's major project from the moment of his arrival in Turin. Prior to this period, he had studied in Venice, spending almost twelve years there (c. 1670-82) before moving on to Florence via Piacenza, Parma, Modena, and Bologna. His ultimate goal was Rome, where he would doubtless have settled had not the Duke of Savoy persuaded him to come work in his palace in 1688. He spent the rest of his career there as First Court Painter.

Between Cortona and Brandi

Working against the intimist, idyllic character of the myth, Seiter brings a forceful approach to the story: the scene is viewed from below in a composition based on conflicting lines and movements that seize possession of the entire picture area. Clearly indebted to Pietro da Cortona, and equally to Giacinto Brandi, the artist opts here for the Roman Baroque tradition of ceiling decoration. Letters exchanged between the Duke of Savoy and his agent in Rome in 1687 reveal one of the major concerns in the choice of the two artists, whose task notably included the canvases surrounding Brandi's central composition in the Stanza delle Cameriste: their work had to harmonize with the latter's manner. Seiter rose to the challenge superbly.

Bibliography

Emmanuel Starcky, Inventaire général des dessins des Ecoles du Nord: Ecoles allemande, des Anciens Pays-Bas, flamande, hollandaise et suisse XVe-XVIIIe siècles. Supplement to the inventories published by Fritz Lugt and Louis Demonts, Paris, RMN, 1988, entry 52
Matthias Kunze, Daniel Seiter (1647-1705): Die Zeichnungen, Exhibition catalogue, Salzburg, Barockmuseum, 1997, plate 35
Ph. Pouncey, "Two Studies by Daniel Seiter for Ceiling Paintings in Turin", in Master Drawings, vol. V, no. 3, 1967, pp. 286-88

Technical description

  • Daniel Seiter (Vienna, 1647-Turin, 1705)

    Diana and Endymion

    Between 1689 and 1693-94

  • Pen and sepia ink, and white highlighting on black chalk sketch, on beige-gray paper

    H. 0.350 m; W. 0.247 m

  • Collection of Louis-Antoine Prat; sale, Paris, 5 December 1984, no. 48; acquired, 1986

    4041205

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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