Rembrandt’s striking light-sized painting of Danae, a character in Greek mythology, allures the viewer and attests to Rembrandt’s profound ability to paint human life. The life-sized nude figure reclines on a bed, her features illuminated by a soft, warm light. Her body appears so lifelike, that the viewer senses the softness of her skin and warmth of the light. In addition to brightening Danae’s skin, the light creates golden highlights on the cupid statue above her head, the sheets draped around her body, and the curtain. Danae’s expectant, inviting expression and the unidentified old woman in the background arouse the curiosity of the viewer. In Rembrandt’s 1636 Danae, he uses the Greek myth about Danae to create one of the most lifelike depictions of the female nude. In so doing, Rembrandt achieves his aspirations of competing with other renowned figure painters, capturing the natural qualities of human nature, and captivating the viewer by alluring his senses through the image’s eroticism.
Rembrandt, a Dutch painter and etcher of the seventeenth century, is one of the most renowned artists in European history. At the start of his career, he painted mostly male heroes, and very rarely depicted female figures. In 1626, he painted Musical Allegory, his first image featuring a female protagonist. At around this time, Rembrandt began depicting mythological scenes. Mythology was the traditional genre through which artists celebrated the female body, especially because it allowed the artist to depict the feminine body in a sexual way. While exploring this genre, Rembrandt became interested in female physicality, and gave increasingly more attention to the female figures in his histories. Eve...
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...press its viewers with its convincing life-likeness and conjure emotion them 400 years later. Rembrandt’s Danae was so strikingly and convincingly lifelike that it was tragically vandalized in 1985. Fortunately, the painting has been restored, so that viewers will continue to be moved by Rembrandt’s evocative, sensual, and lifelike depiction of Danae.
Gilboa, Anat. Images of the Feminine in Rembrandt’s Work. Delft: Eburon Academic Publishers, 2003.
Hunter, James. “Danae.” Encyclopedia Mythica 1997.
Leadbetter, Ron. “Eros.” Encyclopedia Mythica 1997.
Suijter, Eric Jan. Rembrandt and the Female Nude. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006.
Russell, John. “Healing a Disfigured Rembrandt’s Wounds.” New York Times 31 Aug. 1997.
Williams, Julia Lloyd. Rembrandt’s Women. Edinburg: The Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland, 2001.
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