Meleager and Atalanta and the Hunt of the Calydonian Boar

Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577-1640)
c. 1618-19
Oil on panel 
18-3/4 x 29-1/8 in. (47.6 x 74 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Art Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon 
Accession Number:
© Norton Simon Art Foundation 
On View

The subject is derived from Homer's "Iliad," but it is widely believed that Rubens' composition is drawn from Ovid's narrative in the "Metamorphoses." The goddess Diana has taken insult over the Calydonian king's failure to pay her tribute during the harvest festival. To avenge herself, she sends a ferocious boar to ravage the land. The king's son Meleager, accompanied by the bravest warriors, seeks to destroy the creature. Atalanta, the beautiful virgin huntress, joins the hunt and is the first to wound the boar with her arrow, much to the chagrin of her male competitors.

In this oil sketch, or "modello," Atalanta shoots an arrow at the deadly target while Meleager prevents the boar's escape with his spear. Rubens imparts a sense of immediacy through the use of rapid and spontaneous brushstrokes. Such a vigorous technique typifies the lively flavor of the Baroque style and distinguishes the "modello" from the larger, finished painting in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.


?Orleans et al. contract sale (London, April, 1793, lot 248).
?Charles-Alexandre de Calonne (sale, London, Skinner and Dycke, 24 March 1795, lot 19).
?Edward Coxe (sale, London, Peter Coxe, 25 April 1807, lot 47, to);
?Sir Henry Rivers, 9th Bart, Kent (d. 1851).
Mrs. Macmurrough Kavanagh, Borris House, Ireland.
[Coutts & Co. (sold 15 April 1959 to];
[Thomas Agnew and Sons, London, stock 2631] (sold 28 October 1959 to);
[Rosenberg & Stiebel, New York, 1960, sold 1962 to];
Mr. and Mrs. Norton Simon, 1962-1975, when given to;
Norton Simon Art Foundation.

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