The art market often surprises with true stories that seem scarcely believable like this Gandolfi that rose and fell in value in the 19th Century until it eventually found its way to South Carolina where it say in a nursing home without anyone understanding what the work was or why it might be important. Eventually, a photograph was sent to a Christie’s expert and the specialists identified it as one of two works made for a Moscow client on a classical theme:
Gaetano’s painting illustrates the tragic story of the chaste and vengeful goddess of the hunt, Diana, as she expels from her grotto the nymph, Callisto, daughter of King Lycaon of Arcadia and one of her most devoted companions, after having discovered the nymph’s secret pregnancy. As in Ovid’s recounting of the tale in the Metamorphoses (2: 442-453), Callisto had been ravished by Jupiter and, deeply ashamed, had tried to conceal her defilement from the goddess. Following the day’s hunting, and reluctant to disrobe and bathe, Callisto had her garments torn from her body by her companions, and at the sight of the nymph’s swollen belly, Diana, in a fury, punished her with exile.