Richard Wilson’s subject is taken from the Latin poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The lovers Meleager and Atalanta have killed a huge boar sent by the goddess Diana to devastate the countryside of Calydon. But a quarrel leads to disaster and Meleager’s death.
The Academy’s President, Joshua Reynolds, urged landscape painters to elevate their scenes by sending ‘the imagination back into antiquity’. Wilson shows Meleager (on horseback) plunging his spear into the boar, already wounded by Atalanta (far left, with her friends). In the background is the city of Calydon. The main figure group was repainted by John Hamilton Mortimer.