Actaeon and Diana are identified as the main
figures in several ways: both are standing with
hands outstretched and both are surrounded by
similar colors: red (or pink), white, and blue. A
number of animals, such as the hunting dogs,
emphasize the dark mood of the story; similarly,
overhead, a bird of prey, possibly a vulture,
wheels high above Actaeon, ominously waiting
for the impending events to unfold.
The tapestry is based on
Metamorphoses, a series of
mythological stories by the
Roman poet Ovid. In each
story a metamorphosis, or
The border of the tapestry resembles a frame
and shows classical imagery such as animals,
including monkeys and squirrels, and fruit,
including persimmons and grapes.
A tapestry is a woven textile, often showing a
picture. In eighteenth-century Europe, tapestries
were usually intended to hang on the walls of
churches and palaces. Often they were made as
a set, called a chamber, and were hung around a
room so that all the walls were covered.
How Tapestries Were Used
The scene in this tapestry shows the
moment of Actaeon’s transformation, when
horns crown his head as he changes into a stag.
tally stumbled into the forest. Although he
had not purposely witnessed her in this situation, Diana was furious that he had seen her
bathing. In her fury, Diana pointed her finger,
splashed water on him, and changed him into a
stag. His own hunting dogs then attacked and
This tapestry was woven in France more than
three hundred years ago. It is one of at least ten
such tapestries based on a series of mythological stories by the Roman poet Ovid. The stories
are called Metamorphoses because in each
story a metamorphosis, or change, occurs. The
tapestry tells the story of Diana, the goddess of
hunting (known as Artemis in Greek mythology). The objects in her basket identify her as a
According to the myth in
Metamorphoses, Diana was bathing in the woods with her
nymph attendants when Actaeon, a human,
who was out hunting with his dogs, acciden-
About the Tapestry
Diana and Actaeon from a set of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (details). Designed before 1680, woven late 17th–early 18th century. French (Paris); workshop of Jean Jans the Younger
(French, about 1644–1723), Gobelins Tapestry Manufactory. Wool and silk tapestry, 130 x 182” (330 x 462 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mrs. George S.
Amory, in memory of her father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Amory Sibley Carhart, 1964 ( 64.208).