Actaeon Watching Diana and Her Nymphs Bathing

Paolo Veronese (Paolo Caliari) (Italian (Venetian), 1528–1588)


26 x 101 cm (10 1/4 x 39 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas

On View

Italian Renaissance Gallery (Gallery 206)





This work is part of a series of mythological subjects that most likely decorated a frieze in a private home, perhaps just under a crown molding. The hunter Actaeon has stumbled upon the goddess of the hunt, Diana, bathing with her nymphs—her arrows and their clothes have been discarded at right. As punishment for gazing upon their nudity, Diana transforms Actaeon into a stag and he is torn apart by his own dogs. Typically this story is rendered with Actaeon expressing shock; here, however, he lounges on a rock, apparently enjoying the scene before he suffers the consequences.


Until 1657, Giovanni Batta Raggi (b. 1613 - d. 1657), Genoa [see note 1]; 1658, by inheritance to his brother, Cardinal Lorenzo Raggi (b. 1615 - d. 1687), Rome [see note 2]; until at least 1780, probably by descent within the family, to Giulio Raggi, Genoa [see note 3]; 1818, possibly still at the Raggi palace, Genoa [see note 4]. By 1902, Sir George Lindsay Holford (b. 1860 - d. 1926), Dorchester House, London and Westonbirt, Gloucestershire, England [see note 5]; July 15, 1927, Holford sale, Christie's, London, lot 130, to Agnew, London, for 1,400 guineas (stock no. 6744); October 26, 1928, sold by Agnew to Count Alessandro Contini Bonacossi (b. 1878 - d. 1955), Florence [see note 6]; May 26, 1930, sold by Contini Bonacossi to Mrs. Edward Jackson Holmes (Mary Stacy Beaman) (b. 1875), Boston; 1959, gift of Mrs. Edward Jackson Holmes to the MFA. (Accession Date: April 9, 1959)

[1] This is one of five paintings by Veronese, depicting scenes from Roman mythology, that are recorded in Raggi's posthumous inventory of November 4, 1658 (see Piero Boccardo, ed., "L'Età di Rubens," exh. cat. Palazzo Ducale, Genoa, March 20 - July 11, 2004, pp. 325-26, nos. 51-55 and p. 372, cat. nos. 94a-c). Of these, four are at the MFA (accession nos. 59.260, 60.125, 64.2078, 64.2079) and the fifth, showing the Rape of Europa, is in the Rasini collection, Milan.

[2] The paintings are also included in a list, dated November 6, 1658, of works of art to be sent to Raggi's brother in Rome; see Boccardo, ed., 2004 (as above, n. 1), p. 326 ("Cinque bislonghi di Paolo [Veronese]").

[3] After the death of Lorenzo, one painting by Veronese probably remained in Rome, with his cousin Sigismondo, although it is not known which; Sigismondo lent a bislungo, or painting of elongated format, to San Salvatore in Lauro in 1701 and 1710. The others were sent back to Genoa and are recorded in 1780 at the palace of Giulio Raggi, trisnipote (probably a great-grandson or -nephew) of Giovanni Batta. They are described simply as "diverse fregi con piccole figure di Paolo da Verona" (different friezes [i.e., paintings of a long format] with little figures by Paolo Veronese).

[4] In 1818, three of the five paintings -- the Rape of Europa and two that are not specified by subject -- were recorded at the palace by an anonymous author ("Descrizione della città di Genova da un anonimo del 1818," p. 303).

[5] According to information supplied by the Getty Provenance Index, Holford lent this picture to the Royal Academy Winter Exhibition, Burlington House, London, 1902 (cat. no. 114). He may well have inherited the painting from his father, Robert Holford (b. 1808 - d. 1892), who was an avid collector. When Gustav Waagen visited Dorchester House in 1851, however, he did not record this in the Holford collection.

[6] The information on Agnew's transactions was supplied by the Getty Provenance Index.

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Edward Jackson Holmes