CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Diana und Actaeon: der verbotene Blick auf die Nacktheit

Diana and Actaeon: the forbidden glimpse of the naked body Exhibition: 25 October 2008 - 15 February 2009

From the museum website, 2 February 2009

The myth of Diana and Actaeon

While out on a hunting expedition, Actaeon chances upon the goddess Diana whom he accidentally beholds bathing in the nude, together with her nymphs. Incensed at Actaeon’s lustful glances as he looks upon her unprotected nakedness, the goddess of hunting instantly turns the hunter into a stag. The helpless Actaeon fails to be recognised by his own hounds and is torn to pieces by them.

Seeing and being seen

The exhibition is a unique combination of paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs and videos that focus on the thematic complex of chastity and lust, seeing and being seen, voyeurism and exhibitionism – a complex which is of artistic interest and has its place in the history of art. The show illustrates a thematic area where depictions are still under a taboo: the explicit presentation of sex. Yet the exhibition is not meant to be another study of the erotic in art. Rather, it focuses on specific issues that are raised in visual works of art as they deal with the forbidden glance at sex, usual in a female form.

Over 300 works

The works from international public and private collections are shown at the exhibition. You will see not only Diana, but also Venus, Susannah, Bathsheba, Nyssia, Phryne, Potiphar’s wife, Baubo and numerous other nudes of the classical and liberal kind, not listed by name.

The lure of the forbidding glimpse

The exhibition is about carnal desires, the intertwined connection between sex and sexuality, on the one hand, and beauty, truth, ecstasy and even death, on the other. It is about taboos, violations of taboos, guilt and punishment and about knowledge that cannot be obtained in any innocent way. Topics include the multifaceted fascination of beholding the beauty of the female body and also the horror that can be triggered in the beholder by the unashamed revelation of demonstratively feminine sexuality.

Museum press information

Around a core of works of art that explicitly relate to the myth of Artemis/Diana and Aktaion/Actaeon as told by Ovid, this exhibition brings together over 300 works in a scope to be shown as such only in Düsseldorf. On its agenda is that view afforded at all periods of art, upon “The forbidden glimpse of the naked body”. Diana’s fate is also that of Venus, Susanna, Bathsheba, Nyssia, Phryne, Potiphar’s Wife, Baubo, Sheela-na-Gig and a host of unnamed nudes in modes classical and explicit who pass before the visitor’s eye.

They do so now in works by more than 200 artists, as paintings, sculptures,
drawings, prints, photographs and videos from German and international private and public collections. Together they provide a unique account of a broad field interesting from both an art-historical and cultural-historical angle – of chastity and desire, of seeing and being seen, voyeurism and exhibitionism.

In exploring the mythological sources of erotic art the exhibition describes a wide radius, traces the complex question of the forbidden gaze into the art of our own day, presents the progress of the female nude through the ages from a figure of chastity to one flirting with her nakedness and sensuality; light is cast on the voyeuristic traits inherent in images of the nude all the way to the playgrounds of erotic and pornographic art.

Besides works from Classical Greece and Rome and by the “classics” of older art history, for example Artemisia Gentileschi, Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens and Paolo Veronese, the show presents works by masters such as Pierre Bonnard, Lovis Corinth, Marcel Duchamp, Ferdinand Hodler, Gustav Klimt, Pierre Klossowski, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Egon Schiele and, from the realm of contemporary art, standpoints represented by Nobuyoshi Araki, Balthasar Burkhard, Judy Chicago, Marlene Dumas, Noritoshi Hirakawa, Robert Mapplethorpe, Markus Raetz, Arnulf Rainer, Cindy Sherman and others.


Diana und Actaeon: der verbotene Blick auf die Nacktheit
With contributions by Beat Wismer, Sandra Badelt-Pörschmann, Jean-Christophe Bailly, Bettina Baumgärtel, Claudia Delank, François Grundbacher, Karla Höß, Stefanie Ippendorf, Pia Jauch, Maria Moog-Grünewald, Ann-Sophie Lehmann, Katja Stolarow, Gabriele Uerscheln, Miriam von Gehren, Stefan Zweifel
Catalogue of an exhibition held in 2008-09 in Düsseldorf (Museum Kunst Palast)
316 pp., 28.5 cm. 354 illustrations, of which 345 in color
Ostfildern (Hatje Cantz) 2008
ISBN-13: 978-3-7757-2357-2