April 20, 2024


Simple Impartial Art

His Most Famous Painting (Danae) – Rembrandt

One of the most innovative, ingenious, and revered artists of Netherlands in the seventeenth century, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn or simply Rembrandt (1606-69), is accredited with shaping the European art history. Rembrandt had adopted the ‘Baroque’ style of painting, through which he would portray the female mythological figures with much grandeur. Through the rendition of ‘Baroque’ painters, the subjects always depicted drama, luxury, and opulent lifestyle. Rembrandt was famous for personifying the mythological figures as emotional and soulful humans. Rembrandt climaxed his innovative style in his masterpiece, “Danae (Danaë),” created in 1636.

In Greek mythology, “Danae,” the mother of the hero Perseus, symbolizes a woman of purity, who welcomes Zeus, and is impregnated by a shower of gold. Rembrandt however, differed from this traditional belief and painted “Danae” in nude, portraying her complex emotions. The painting created quite a stir, as nudity was a taboo subject for the European painters. In “Danae,” the protagonist is a young woman, lying half-raised on white linen sheet, with plump yellow pillows around. She looks away from the viewer, depicting her wait for Zeus. The human element here is referenced with her sanguine longing for love.

With single brushstroke throughout, in “Danae,” Rembrandt has used colors effectively well, while manipulating and complying with the effects of light on them. Initially, Rembrandt was painting this masterpiece, considering his wealthy wife Saskia as Danae. Later, due to her death however, he rejected the idea and painted the masterpiece with his mistress Geertje Dircx as the model for “Danae.” Overall, the theme apparent from the painting is that Lord Zeus is coming and Danae will be showered with gold.

This 185 cm × 203 cm (73 in × 80 in) oil on canvas work was a part of the collection of the French art collector, Pierre Crozat. Since eighteenth century, “Danae” was exhibited in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. Late in June 15, 1985 however, a young inseam peasant threw acid over the painting and cut it twice with a sharp knife. As a result, unfortunately, the central zone of the masterpiece was completely ruined, with only a mixture of color remaining. The restoration process of this sensuous and bold masterpiece began immediately. After a stressful and grueling effort, ranging from 1985 to 1997, scientists, including Gerasimov, A.G. Rakhman, G.A. Shirokov, and T.P. Alioshina, managed to restore “Danae.” Noted art scholars appreciated the effort and even commented “over 70 percent of the paint surface remained undamaged.”

Rembrandt competently personified love and purity through the mythological figure of “Danae.” His rendition of the painting is a testament of his innovation and adaptability. This painting continues to enthrall art historians and scholars. “Danae” lets the viewer feel spirituality with added grandeur, which actually is quite humbling an experience.