By portraying the princess as the Greco-Roman goddess Diana, after whom she was named, the historical person is metamorphosed to one of myth. The esoteric and mythological dimensions of the allegories are further evoked by the Cerne Abbas Giant and its ancient alignment with the constellation Orion, together with the mysterious presence of the Cerne Abbas crop circle figure.
A discussion with friend and sculptor, Ian Rank-Broadley, who was recently commissioned by the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex to sculpt a statue of their mother, 20 years on from her death, led to Durand’s decision to use The Diana of Versailles in the Louvre as the basis for his pair of allegories. Durand had drawn and painted The Diana of Versailles since his student years, however, it was only in 2003 that he was struck by the similarities between the statue and Diana, Princess of Wales, who had been the artist’s neighbour during the many years he lived in Kensington, London.
“No matter how often I have looked at a work of art, it is only when I draw or paint it that the secret of its beauty fully reveals itself to me. At sunrise in the Church of Saint James the Great in Longburton, Dorset, I began to block in a new allegory, DIANA OF THE CERNE GIANT AND ORION. By mid-morning the composition was delineated, and I began to develop the central, almost life-sized figure of Diana, goddess of the hunt, based on The Diana of Versailles - a slightly over life-size marble statue of the Greek goddess Diana with a small deer in the Musée du Louvre. As I began to indicate the flowing, sensuous folds and creases in Diana’s tunic, the beauty I sought to emulate dumbfounded me. Every carved Fortuny pleat enhances the goddess’ assured, graceful movement in the most timelessly seductive way. Mesmerized, brush in hand, I thought I will do more than justice to Princess Diana of Althorp if in painting I can do justice to the Diana of Versailles, this breathing incarnation of the goddess so realistic that she had to be firmly fixed to her pedestal to stop her from racing off.’ – André Durand