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Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755

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Pierre Paul Prud'hon, French, 1758-1823

Diana Imploring Jupiter Not to Make Her Marry Hymen
About 1803
Black, white, and red chalk on blue paper
Purchased through a gift from the Cremer Foundation in memory of J. Theodor Cremer, the Phyllis and Bertram Geller 1937 Memorial Fund, the William B. Jaffe and Evelyn A. Jaffe Hall Fund, and the Hood Museum of Art Acquisitions Fund; D.985.52

Pierre-Paul Prud’hon was born at Cluny, educated at the Dijon Academy, and residing in Paris by 1780. After studying in Italy he returned to the French capital in 1787 and made a living preparing drawings for engravers and painting portraits for provincial patrons. His independent personality led to the development of a softer, more lyrical style compared to the slavish imitation of the followers of Jacques-Louis David’s (1748-1825) heroic manner. His competition design for a large circular ceiling decoration for the Louvre in Paris in 1799 won him considerable recognition. This success, combined with his friendship with the powerful Prefect of the Seine, Nicholas Frochot (1761-1828), led to other large-scale painting projects. He eventually became a leading court artist during the period of the First Empire (1804-15) and later worked for the Bourbon government.

His regular method of working began with black-and-white chalk studies on tinted paper before proceeding to an actual painting. In this preparatory drawing for a commission of 1803 to decorate another ceiling in the Louvre, Jupiter listens to his daughter Diana beg him not to make her marry Hymen, the Greek god of marriage. Diana desired to remain chaste; her interest lay in hunting, not domestic love. Jupiter conceded to her, and Diana remained a virgin goddess. The drawing embodies the final stage in the evolution of this composition. However, the black chalk reveals alterations in the poses of the head and hands of Jupiter and the feet of Diana, which were modified after the completion of a painted model.

Prud’hon’s work was greatly admired during the nineteenth century, and Eugène Delacroix considered his drawings to be a consummate expression of the artist’s unique style.

The subject of Diana’s resistance to marriage was an unusual choice in comparison with the other painted and sculpted decorations in the same room by other artists. It was derived from the Greek poet Callimachus’s (about 310/5-240 BCE) Hymn to Artemis.

Last Updated: 1/21/10