Rembrandt Paints Danaë

Danaë is Rembrandt's painting from the collection of Pierre Crozat which from the 18th century resides in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

It depicts the character Danaë from Greek mythology, the mother of Perseus. She is presumably depicted as welcoming Zeus, who impregnated her in the form of a shower of gold. Given that this is one of Rembrandt's most magnificent paintings, it is not out of the question that he cherished it, but it also may have been difficult to sell because of its eight-by-ten-foot size. Although the artist's wife Saskia was the original model for Danaë, Rembrandt later changed the figure's face to that of his mistress Geertje Dircx.

The Danae is ascribed to 1636, and the date is fairly legible, though it seems early for a work of such vigour. What the subject is still remains uncertain, and on this controverted question there is a good note in the Catalogue of the Hermitage. For the lover of art it is quite sufficient to see that the picture represents a comely woman ripe for love and expectant of her mate. Saskia probably served as model, and the forms of the nude are more delicate than is often the case with the master. As a study in light- and-shade and colour the piece is almost overpowering in its splendour. There is considerable variety in the carnations, the coral reds on cheek and knee and fingertips give life to the broad scheme of golden lights and halftones and reflexes that play over the rounded torso and limbs.