Skip to main content

Diana Sleeping after the Hunt

Carel de Moor (Leiden 1655 – Warmond 1738)
oil on canvas
158.4 x 145.7 cm
signed information

Signed on the stone ledge: “C De Moor” and on the stone in front of the ledge “Ft 1698”

inventory number

Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. and Pamela Fowler. “Diana Sleeping after the Hunt” (2024). In The Leiden Collection Catalogue, 4th ed. Edited by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. and Elizabeth Nogrady with Caroline Van Cauwenberge. New York, 2023–. (accessed June 22, 2024).

Carel de Moor’s name may not be widely recognized today, but during his lifetime this Leiden master was highly respected and praised for his portraits, genre scenes, and history paintings. Although many of his most significant paintings have been lost, his masterpiece, Diana Sleeping after the Hunt, has fortunately been preserved. The work’s outstanding qualities offer a glimpse of why Carel de Moor (1655–1738) was held in such high esteem throughout his long and distinguished career.

Arnold Houbraken (1660–1719), who befriended De Moor in the mid to late 1670s when the artist came to Dordrecht and spent time with Godefridus Schalcken (1643–1706), is the primary source for information about De Moor. According to Houbraken, De Moor demonstrated such a great love of drawing as a young man in Leiden that his father, an art dealer, sent him to learn the rules of art from the illustrious Leiden master Gerrit Dou (1613–75). Subsequently, De Moor went to Amsterdam to study with Abraham van den Tempel (1622/23–72), with whom he trained in making portraits and large-scale history paintings. Houbraken writes that after Van den Tempel’s death, De Moor returned to Leiden to study with Frans van Mieris (1635–81) and then continued his training under Schalcken in Dordrecht. De Moor’s decision to study with Schalcken puzzled Houbraken, who wrote that by then De Moor “already understood the art of drawing better than Schalcken, unless he only did it to copy his flattering brush [for which he is famous] in his handling.” Since De Moor’s first signed painting is dated 1674, it is possible that the young artist worked alongside Schalcken as an established master rather than as an apprentice.

Drawing on the varied skills he acquired during his artistic training, De Moor embarked upon a career that included portraiture, genre scenes, and history paintings, the most important of which is Diana Sleeping after the Hunt. This large and imposing canvas portrays the beautiful goddess Diana, identified by the crescent moon decorating her headband, as she sleeps while seated in a wooded glade, her faithful dog lying nestled on her lap. Diana, known as goddess of the hunt as well as goddess of the moon, is resting after a particularly successful outing. In the distant landscape, a hound and three female figures, one of whom wears a white dress and blue shawl that correspond to the goddess’s outfit, chase a deer, alluding to the earlier hunt. Hanging from a tree, next to Diana’s hunting horn and quiver of arrows, is the game she has slain through her unerring aim: a plump partridge; a peacock with an enormous tail of iridescent eyes that shimmer in the evening light; and a deer, its upper body splayed lifelessly on the ground nearby.

Despite the visual focus on Diana’s prowess as a hunter, the mood of De Moor’s large mythological scene is more sensual than triumphant. Diana’s gold-trimmed, white satin garment and blue robe have fallen off her shoulders, revealing her fair skin and breasts. Flowers adorn her hair, while a pink rose, symbolizing love, lies on the ledge where she sits. A putto hovering above Diana aims an arrow at the famously chaste goddess, while another cherub gazes upward to witness this evocative and poignant moment that will ensure that Diana’s dreams are sweetened with feelings of love.

The conception and execution of this inspired composition bring together the wide range of imagery and techniques De Moor had studied. His exquisitely detailed rendering of the peacock’s tail, the partridge’s feathers, and the deer’s fur all reflect the refined, detailed manner of the Leiden fijnschilders—which he would have learned from Dou and Van Mieris. De Moor even based Diana’s pose on a figure in Van Mieris’s Woman and a Procuress (), a painting he likely copied when he was with that master. The soft and flowing way De Moor rendered the fabrics in Diana’s garments likely stems from his experiences in Van den Tempel’s workshop. De Moor was also evidently familiar with Schalcken’s expressive mythological scenes, particularly those featuring Diana in a landscape setting. For example, Schalcken’s Diana and Her Nymphs in a Clearing in The Leiden Collection () includes small-scale figures in the distant background (among them Diana, if one is to judge from the orange robes of one of the nymphs), much like those in De Moor’s Diana Sleeping after the Hunt. Schalcken, like De Moor, studied with Dou, who frequently inserted similar vignettes into the background of his own works.

Aside from the influence of these masters, the inspiration of Gerard de Lairesse (1641–1711), the preeminent Classicist in Amsterdam in the late 1660s and 1670s, is profoundly important for the visual power and enormous scale of Diana Sleeping after the Hunt. De Moor would have encountered De Lairesse when he was in Amsterdam training in the studio of Van den Tempel. De Lairesse’s paintings, particularly his large allegorical and mythological subjects, were highly regarded by wealthy Amsterdam merchants as well as by courtly patrons across Europe—which provided ample reason for De Moor to emulate that particular master’s manner of painting. The connections between De Moor’s Diana Sleeping after the Hunt and De Lairesse’s Selene and Endymion from ca. 1680 () are both thematic and visual, as in the similarity between Diana’s body type and idealized facial features and those of Selene, Greek goddess of the night.

The mythological stories of Selene and Diana, respectively the Greek and Roman goddesses of the moon, and the shepherd Endymion, a virtuous mortal and symbol of timeless beauty, are closely intertwined and essentially the same. Selene, like Diana, fell in love with Endymion, and each night she came down from her chariot to watch or kiss her beloved as he slept. In the Roman version of the myth, Endymion was not conscious of Diana’s love and slept without ever growing a day older. De Lairesse emphasized the theme of love in Selene and Endymion through the figure of Cupid, who not only holds a burning torch but also points to the sleeping shepherd.

As noted by Dirk Snoep, the theme of De Lairesse’s painting represents a distinctive type of history painting: namely, a moralizing fable that served as an exemplar of divine virtue. This myth, whether featuring Selene or Diana, was popular in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in European courts. De Lairesse, for example, painted Selene and Endymion for Mary Stuart shortly after her marriage to the Stadholder William III in 1677. The painting hung as a chimneypiece in Mary Stuart’s bedroom in their country residence in Soestdijk. Similarly, Benedetto Gennari (1633–1715) presented his Diana and Endymion () to the English monarch Charles II in 1674, the very year that Gennari was named Court Painter. Much like De Moor’s Diana Sleeping after the Hunt, Gennari’s painting includes the figure of Cupid shooting an arrow at Diana to introduce the concept of love into the pictorial narrative. Depictions of Cupid shooting an arrow at Diana occur in several other renderings of Diana and Endymion from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. This motif specifically connects De Moor’s painting to the story of Diana and Endymion—the only instance in classical mythology where matters of love are associated with this famously chaste goddess.

De Moor’s interpretation of the narrative is strikingly different from all other known examples: it is the only depiction of Diana as quietly asleep while Endymion is not physically present. In his entirely unique version of the mythological story, De Moor evocatively weaves associations of sleep and love into the tale of Diana and Endymion. His sole focus on Diana notably sidesteps the theme of unrequited love that is inevitable in portrayals of the goddess alongside the sleeping shepherd. Similar to De Lairesse’s Selene and Endymion, De Moor’s Diana Sleeping after the Hunt celebrates Diana as an exemplum virtutis (example of virtue), which makes it likely that he painted this carefully executed and large work for an elite patron. As with De Lairesse’s Selene and Endymion, one wonders whether De Moor’s painting was likewise intended to be displayed in a bedroom.

The first mention of Diana Sleeping after the Hunt is presumably the large painting by De Moor that appeared in an auction held in Frankfurt on January 19, 1763. The description of the work (“Life-sized Diana asleep in a beautiful landscape, beautifully painted”), as well as its dimensions, are both comparable to those of the canvas now in The Leiden Collection. The probable identification of the painting in the Frankfurt auction with Diana Sleeping after the Hunt suggests that De Moor executed it for a German noble. Subsequent to this sale, the painting came into the possession of the important collector and former mayor of Leiden Johan van der Marck (1707–72), who also owned at least twenty-one other works by the artist. De Moor’s reputation waned after the eighteenth century, as is evident in the comparatively low sales price for this work when it was auctioned in Amsterdam in 1817. In the next known reference to Diana Sleeping after the Hunt, the painting reappeared in an auction in Zurich in 2008, when it was purchased by the New York dealer Otto Naumann. The present collector acquired the work from Naumann in that year. Fortunately, despite the long gap in the painting’s provenance, Diana Sleeping after the Hunt has been well cared for over the years, and this masterpiece has come down to us today in excellent condition.

- Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. and Pamela Fowler, 2024
  • Possible sale, Juncker Kaller, Frankfurt, 19 January 1763, no. 5 [sold for 80 ½ florins].
  • Johan van der Marck Aegidiusz. (1707–72), Leiden (his sale, De Winter & Yver, Amsterdam, 25 August 1773, no. 211 [to Delfos for 339 florins]).
  • Anna Sautyn (her sale, Twisk, Amsterdam, 21 October 1817, no. 9 [to V. Ebbing for 104 florins]).
  • Private collection, Lucerne, Switzerland, by 1958.
  • (Sale, Koller, Zurich, 19 September 2008, no. 3050 [to Otto Naumann Ltd.].)
  • [Otto Naumann Ltd., New York.]
  • From whom acquired by the present owner in 2008.
  • Amsterdam, Hermitage Amsterdam, Rembrandt and His Contemporaries: History Paintings from The Leiden Collection, 4 February–27 August 2023, no. 30 [lent by the present owner].
  • Van Eijnden, Roeland, and Adriaan van der Willigen. Geschiedenis der vaderlandsche schilderkunst, sedert de helft der XVIII eeuw. Haarlem, 1840, 4: 154.
  • Lunsingh Scheurleer, Theodoor Hermann, Cornelia Willemijn Fock, and A.J. van Dissel, eds. Het Rapenburg: Geschiedenis van een Leidse gracht. Vol. 2, De Paplepel. Leiden, 1987, 101.
  • Van der Hut, Margreet. Barend Graat (1628–1709): Zijn leven en werk. Leiden, 2015, 156.
  • Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. “Carel de Moor, Diana Sleeping after the Hunt.” In Rembrandt and His Contemporaries: History Paintings from The Leiden Collection. Edited by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. and Caroline Van Cauwenberge, 136–37, no. 30. Exh. cat. Amsterdam, Hermitage Amsterdam. Zwolle, 2023. [Exhibition catalogue also published in Dutch.]
  • Fowler, Pamela, and Piet Bakker. Carel de Moor (1655–1738): His Life and Work, a Catalogue Raisonné. Leiden, 2024.
Scroll back to top