Danae (1636)

Rembrandt (1606-1669)

Oil on canvas, 185 x 202.5 cm
Hermitage MuseumSaint Petersburg

Love undoubtedly also inspired Rembrandt to produce Danaë. The subject was taken from the ancient myth about a princess of Argos, whose father, the king, was told that he would die at the hand of his as yet unborn grandson. To avoid this, he shut Danaë up in a tower, but Zeus, attracted by the girl’s beauty, came to her in the form of a shower of gold. In Rembrandt’s work the heroine of the myth is above all an earthly woman with an emphatically individual appearance. Her beauty lies not in bodily perfection, but in the sense of the anxious expectation of love. The splendid bed forms a precious setting for her figure and the golden light pouring from the depths and indicating the approach of Zeus, creates a glowing warm atmosphere around the young woman. Rembrandt painted this large canvas with a nude, something unusual for the Dutch school, in 1636 and it remained in his home a long time. Researches have shown that in the early 1640s the artist significantly altered the central part of the painting. Sadly today we cannot fully appreciate the amazing fineness of his work: the serious damage that a vandal inflicted on Danaë in 1985 irretrievably destroyed the upper layers of painting in the centre of the canvas, although painstaking work by the restorers over 12 years made it possible to return the picture to display. (SHM)