Dolph, Diana and Cupid (after Batoni, 1761)
76 x 85 cm / 30" x 34"
Oil on board
Signed lower right
Export Price Conversions: US$52,000 €46,000 £40,000
SOLD - A private collection, New York
Undeniably one of Ross Watson's most detailed paintings, requiring no less than two months continual work, this exceptional and charming large scale painting references Diana and Cupid by Pompeo Batoni, and features Bel Ami’s popular and handsome Dolph Lambert.
One of the most successful painters in 18th Century Rome, Batoni, like Watson, catered mostly for a foreign audience. He painted the work in 1761, which captured Watson’s attention on one of his visits to the Metropolitan Museum, and shows Diana the goddess of the hunt withholding the bow from Cupid.
Cupid is normally depicted with Venus the goddess of love, though here it is Diana who is also the goddess of chastity and the moon who playfully chastises him for using a hunting weapon to instill love.
This masterful incorporation of Lambert within the composition creates an arching visual curve above the group, and places him between Cupid and the bow, which introduces a curious ambiguity as to the target of Cupid's reaching.
Given Watson never alters the proportions, or re-arranges figures within a classical artwork he is referencing, it is striking to to observe the seated dog looking longingly up to Lambert, whose luminous peaches and cream complexion compliments those of Diana and Cupid.
Diana and Cupid was painted for Sir Humphrey Morice (1723–1785), son of a wealthy merchant and director of the Bank of England. Morice was a great animal lover and commissioned from Batoni a portrait of himself reclining in the Roman countryside after the hunt as a pendant to this canvas, which although full of extraordinary warmth and feeling, the figure of Diana is based on a celebrated ancient statue of the sleeping Ariadne in the Vatican.
Complete with exquisitely painted details, including the dozens of coloured feathers in Cupid’s wings, this fine trophy painting is set to be an important centre-piece in Watson’s New York exhibition this June.