The myth of Diana and Actaeon tells how Actaeon, out hunting with his dogs, happens upon the goddess Diana bathing naked in a stream and spies on her. Once discovered, the furious Diana turns him into a stag and he is ripped asunder by his own hounds.
It’s a tale often used as inspiration by the Old Masters, most notably Titian in his painting Diana and Actaeon at the National Gallery. While most artists tend to focus on the act of spying or the moment Actaeon is caught and transformed, Lanfranco Quadria has decided to reproduce the bloody and grisly aftermath.
Frenetic drawings and paintings show a whirlwind of writhing dogs as they tear into the bodies, both human and stag. In one picture a man is hanging from his feet but his top half isn’t visible amongst the frenzied mass of dogs ripping into him
The works are drawn in a style akin to x-rays as the spinal columns of the dogs are visible as are the ribs of the stag. This semi-transparent method adds an energy to the works and adds to the intensity of the scene.
In the painted works, it’s even more difficult to spot the details amongst the sea of red – it was only after a few minutes that we realised the stag’s head had been separated from its body. However, it is the black and white works that are our favourites feeling both detailed and distorted at the same time.
Viewers can stare at these works for some time and still not pick up all the subtle details amidst the tornado of rabid hounds ripping into their victims. It’s macabre subject matter but executed so delicately, it never feels overpowering.
Quadria has added his own energetic take on the myth of Actaeon, and it makes for a captivating exhibition.
Lanfranco Quadria: The Agony of Actaeon is on at Rosenfeld Porcini, 37 Rathbone Street, W1T 1NZ until 21 November. Admission is free.