(Venice 1654- Soligo 1726)
Diana and the Sleeping Endymion
39 3/4 x 52 inches (101 x 132 cm.)
Baron Lazzaroni; his sale, Nice, June 16-21, 1952, lot 17, as Luca Giordano The Dream of Adonis; Private Collection, New York; Private Collection, Connecticut
"Italian Baroque Paintings from New York Private Collections," Art Museum, Princeton University, 1980
Eric Young, "Additions to Bellucci's Oeuvre," Apollo, XCVII, 1974, p. 302-3, figs. 4-6
John T. Spike, Italian Baroque Paintings from New York Private Collections, exh. cat. Princeton 1980, pp. 28-30, no. 7 ill.
Fabrizio Magani, Antonio Bellucci; Catalogo ragionato, Rimini 1995, p. 143, cat. no. 56 ill.
Endymion was a handsome shepherd who fell asleep in a cave on the side of Mount Latmus. There he was seen by Diana, the goddess of the moon, who was so enamored of his beauty that she kissed him as he slept. She returned to him every night, approaching him only after he had fallen asleep. In some tellings of the legend the usually chaste Diana, fearing that her passion could not be restrained, caused Endymion to remain in a permanent slumber, but one in which he never aged. In other treatments, Endymion is said to have fathered fifty children by Diana, suggesting that he did in fact awaken.
In Bellucci's painting Endymion, partially covered by a crimson drape, is seen asleep, his head resting on his hand. He remains oblivious to the presence of Diana accompanied by two cupids, while his dog dutifully barks at these unexpected visitors. Her drapery has been blown away from her body and she wears little other than the crescent moon symbol on her head. With her hands crossed beneath her breasts she seems to study the object of her desire, her expression curious, charming, coquettish. Other treatments of the theme may focus on Endymion's sleep as a metaphor of death or his lack of aging as emblematic of immortality. In Bellucci's painting, with its playful reversal of the more usually encountered scenes of male voyeurism (Susannah and the Elders, Diana at the Bath, David and Bathsheba) and its pairing of two eternally young and attractive figures, the accent is decidedly erotic.
Bellucci is said to have been a pupil of the obscure Dalmatian painter Domenico Disnigo, but his style is manifestly indebted to such Venetian masters as Antonio Zanchi and Pietro Liberi, as well as to Luca Giordano, who was in Venice in the 1670's. His early work was in Venice and the Veneto, but soon Bellucci came to the notice of foreign patrons and became the first of a generation of Venetian painters (Pellegrini, Amigoni, Tiepolo, Sebastiano and Marco Ricci) to adopt an itinerant career across the continent. He traveled extensively throughout Europe and received notable commissions in Vienna (where he was court painter to Emperor Joseph I from 1696 to 1702), Düsseldorf (where he worked for the Elector Palatine from 1705 to 1716), and England (where he stayed from 1716 to 1722). According to Eric Young, Francesco Valcanover had proposed to date the present painting to Bellucci's English period (1716-22), but Young and Spike would place it somewhat earlier, perhaps close to 1700. Both Magani and Spike compare the Diana and Endymion with Bellucci's Venus and Mars (Private Collection, Bergamo) in its treatment of an analogous two-figure mythological composition.