Jules Joseph Lefebvre, French, 1836-1911
Diana
Oil on panel, 12 x 10 1/2 in.
Signed lower left: Jules Lefebvre
1996.19

Lefebvre identifies Diana, the goddess of the hunt, with her bow and the crescent moon on her head. But, under the guise of mythological subject matter, Lefebvre presents Diana as a sensual female nude, rendered in porcelain tones, her body highlighted against the blue fabric and a dark background. As one critic observed in 1881, Lefebvre’s name evokes images of a “thousand adorable creatures, of which he is the father … and better than anyone else caresses, with a brush both delicate and sure, the undulating contour of the feminine form.”

The artist studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris with Léon Cogniet and won the coveted Prix de Rome in 1861. Best known for his portraits and allegorical portrayals of the female nude, Lefebvre had a brilliant career, receiving many honors and awards. He became a professor at the private Académie Julien in 1870, a regular member of Salon juries from 1875, a member in the Institut de France in 1891, and Commander of the Legion of Honor in 1898.