A few of the National Gallery's sculptures were conceived for display outdoors; one of the finest such works is this Companion of Diana. Louis XIV commissioned at least ten sculptured Companions of Diana for the grounds of his beloved Château de Marly, between Paris and Versailles. After his death in 1715, his successor Louis XV installed some of the completed statues in the forests of La Muette, another hunting retreat.
In classical mythology Diana was goddess of the moon and of the hunt. Her woodland companions were nymphs like this one, appropriate denizens for a royal hunting preserve. Lemoyne's Companion, supple and long-limbed, moving with effortless grace and joy, epitomizes the rococo ideal of beauty.
With a dancing step, the girl seems barely to touch the ground as she lifts the leash to signal the beginning of the chase. In amusement and affection she smiles down at her hound and, incidentally at the viewer, who would have seen her on a high pedestal.
on pedestal, proper right: j.L. LEMOYNE. PARiSiNVS. FECIT. / 1724
Château de la Muette, near Paris, until the late 19th century; sold to (Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Paris, New York, and London); Rodolphe Kann [d. 1905], Paris; (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); sold 20 November 1908 to Peter A.B. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; gift 1942 to NGA.
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