Ovid (Metamorphoses III) tells how Diana, chaste goddess of the hunt, was spied on by Actaeon while bathing, and in punishment she turned him into a stag. The moment depicted here appears to be that in which Diana, caught by surprise, turns to confront the intruder (or, possibly, turns away from him).
This etching dates from the very end of Rembrandt’s Leiden period, and was made on the point of his departure for Amsterdam. It belongs to his earliest group of etched nudes and may have been conceived as a counterpart of the Naked woman seated on a mound (B.198), which has the same dimensions and employs a similar pose (though reversed). Representations of the female nude are rare in Dutch art of this period, and Rembrandt’s truthful approach to his subject is entirely characteristic of his art, especially during his early years. In its close attention to detail, Diana at the bath is characteristic of Rembrandt’s early manner, while in its chiaroscuro and its sense of dramatic narrative this etching is one of the most ambitious of the master’s early career.
This fine impression is printed on paper with a previously unknown variant of the basilisk watermark, belonging to a Swiss manufacturer and indicating an early printing, possibly in 1632 or 1633.