Manship, a herald of Art Deco Modernism, typically drew upon Classical forms and narratives. He planned and executed Actaeon as a pair with Diana (also in the Hudson River Museum collection and featured on the Google Cultural Institute). The subject is from Roman mythology. According to the tale, the goddess Diana was bathing one day when the hunter Actaeon accidentally encountered her. Diana, who was herself a hunter as well as a virgin, avenged her moral outrage by turning Actaeon into a stag so that his own dogs would kill him. The beauty and taut immobility of Manship’s design seem to belie the brutality and frantic action of the story.
Samuel Untermyer, owner of the Greystone estate in Yonkers, New York, likely saw Diana and Actaeon on exhibition in New York City. He already owned work by Manshhip. The sculptor was friends with Wells Bosworth, who landscaped Untermyer’s grounds, and in 1917, he had commissioned the the famous Sphinxes that still perch atop columns in the Grecian Gardens. Even before that, Manship was probably familiar with Untermyer’s estate because he had been an apprentice of Isidore Konti, a scultptor who lived in Yonkers and created a marble fountain for Untermyer.
In 1925, he ordered copies of Diana and Actaeon to frame the entrance to his amphitheater. Manship issued the pair in three different sizes, these being the medium version. Luckily, they were not dispersed in the Untermyer estate sale but became property of the City of Yonkers when it acquired Untermyer Park. The City donated the sculptures to the Museum in 1948.