Domenichino (1581-1641), a Bolognese artist, painted a unique interpretation of Ovid's myth of the goddess Diana and mortal hunter Actaeon in 1616 titled, Archery Contest of Diana and her Nymphs. This image depicts the goddess and her nymphs actively engaged in various activities. This portrayal is drastically different from common depictions of the time period, in which the goddess is portrayed as vulnerable, weak, and subjected to male voyeurism. In contrast, Domenichino painted his female warriors as physically strong and empowered with their weapons in hand. Compared to the art of his contemporaries, Domenichino's painting clearly evidences that he was influenced and inspired by a well-established, protofeminist artistic tradition originating in Bologna. Bologna offered several contributing factors which created a receptive environment for female artists to thrive. Artists like Lavinia Fontana were able to create strong careers that were both profitable and competitive with those of their male contemporaries. Fontana's depictions of female subjects deliberately pushed against the stereotype of painting heroines as passive objects exposed to male voyeurism. In Archery Contest of Diana and her Nymphs, Domenichino approaches Diana and her nymphs in the same fashion as the Bolognese protofeminists. The women depicted are no longer passive objects to be gazed upon; rather they are actively engaged and have physically fit bodies. Domenichino and the protofeminist tradition redefined how heroines are depicted by empowering the women as dynamic participants in brave pursuits.
College and Department
Humanities; Comparative Arts and Letters
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Wixom, Tiffany Nicole, "Combating Voyeurism: Domenichino and the Protofeminist Artistic Tradition of Bologna" (2018). Theses and Dissertations. 6741.
Domenichino, protofeminism, male gaze