Hammershøi drew on Greek mythology for the characters depicted here, but created a scene of his own devising, without any basis in literature. The main protagonist is Artemis, goddess of the hunt (Diana in Roman mythology). She is being led towards the painting’s foreground by the harvest goddess Demeter. Perhaps Artemis is moving towards her twin brother Apollo, who stands to the right. But we cannot be certain whether they will actually meet, or if she will simply walk past him. Apollo seems lost in thought. His introspection and feminine appearance curbs any eroticism that might have entered the painting. The scene is enigmatic. Is it about the lack of contact between the characters? Hammershøi stated that he only chose the painting’s title shortly before exhibiting it for the first time in 1894. It is his only mythological painting.
(Text courtesy of the National Gallery of Denmark; Image CC BY 3.0).