Diana of Versailles

Yinka Shonibare (1962 - )

fibreglass sculpture, hand painted Dutch wax batik, watercolour globe

2019 - 2020
  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Government Art Collection

    Diana of Versailles is a striking example of artist Yinka Shonibare’s distinctive animated figurative sculptures clothed in historical costume made from Dutch wax batik fabric. It depicts Diana, the Roman goddess of hunting and wild animals, wearing a brightly patterned, pleated knee-length tunic and sandals. She is represented mid-stride as if in pursuit of her prey. In her left hand she holds the antlers of the small deer that rears up beside her, while her right hand reaches behind her back to draw an arrow from her quiver. 

    The classical style of antique statuary is transformed by Shonibare’s uniquely designed signature patterns, painted directly onto its surface. The figure’s head is replaced by a hand-painted watercolour globe of a contemporary map, a motif alluding to a universal human identity. Diana of Versailles is reimagined for a domestic setting, whilst retaining the dramatic impact of the antique style.

    Shonibare’s sculpture is partially based on a restored Roman marble copy of a lost Greek bronze attributed to Leochares that was given by Pope Paul IV to Henry II of France in 1556, with a subtle reference to the King's mistress, Diane de Poitiers. It was prominently based at the Château de Fontainebleau before being removed to the Louvre prior to its installation at Versailles by Louis XIV.

  • About the artist
    Yinka Shonibare CBE was born in London and moved to Lagos, Nigeria at the age of three. He returned to London to study Fine Art, first at Byam School of Art and then at Goldsmiths College, where he received his MFA. Shonibare was a Turner Prize nominee in 2004, and was also awarded the decoration of Member of the ‘Most Excellent Order of the British Empire’ or MBE, a title he has added to his professional name. Shonibare was notably commissioned by Okwui Enwezor at Documenta XI, Kassel, in 2002 to create his most recognised work 'Gallantry and Criminal Conversation' that launched him on to an international stage. He has exhibited at the Venice Biennale and internationally at leading museums. In September 2008, his major mid-career survey commenced at the MCA Sydney and then toured to the Brooklyn Museum, New York and the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. He was elected as a Royal Academician by the Royal Academy, London in 2013. In January 2019, Yinka Shonibare was awarded the decoration of CBE.
  • Explore
  • Details
    Diana of Versailles
    2019 - 2020
    fibreglass sculpture, hand painted Dutch wax batik, watercolour globe
    height: 215.5 cm; width: 175.5 cm; depth: 167.0 cm
    Purchased from Stephen Friedman Gallery, March 2021
    Stephen Friedman Gallery; from whom purchased by UK Government Art Collection, 31 March 2021
    GAC number