This drawing which last appeared on the market in 1969 without an attribution is a compositional study by Gaetano Gandolfi for the picture of the same subject (Fig. 1; sold Christie's, New York, 27 January 2010, lot 29), which dates to the 1780s and was commissioned by a Russian collector, possibly the Muscovite prince Nicolay Borisovich Yusupov (1751-1831). Until the finished painting surfaced at Christie's earlier this year, the compositions of Diana and Callisto and its pendant, The Triumph of Venus were known only through two bozzeti which appeared on the market in the 1970s, and a red chalk compositional drawing of The Triumph of Venus which was first published in 1993 (M. Cazort, Bella Pittura: The art of the Gandolfi, exhib. cat., Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, 1993, no. 76) and sold at Sotheby's, London, 5 July 2006, lot 720). In the 1993 catalogue Cazort also mentions that a black chalk preparatory drawing of two of the nymphs in Diana and Callisto was with G. Serge Michel, New York, 1980 (op. cit., p. 66, under no. 43).
A letter dated 20 December 1819 from Gaetano's son Mauro is the earliest documentation we have about this seemingly important commission. In Mauro's letter to Vicenzo Catalani of Bologna he exhorts him to locate and purchase his father's two red chalk preparatory drawings for the paintings which he notes were made for a resident of Moscow (Cazort, op. cit., p. 16, n. 35).
The drawing sold at Sotheby's is probably the one mentioned in Mauro's letter. While the red chalk drawing for Diana and Callisto has yet to reappear, the present drawing with its use of brown wash to create dramatic framing and shading effects in the foreground and the vibrant pen lines that end in circular flourishes are entirely characteristic of Gaetano's technique as a draftsman. There are some variations between the secondary figures in the compositions. The drawing does not include the two putti in the clouds that appear in the centre of the painting, while the poses of two of the dogs and foremost female figure in the lower right quadrant differ slightly from those in the painting as does the position of the quiver in the centre foreground.