Danae by Rembrandt from the Hermitage Collection
Danae was created in 1636 in Rembrandt's golden age and became one of his most significant works on Greek myths. It is the painting that the artist created to please himself, it was meant to be kept in his house, not for sale. It stayed with Rembrandt until 1656 when he was declared bankrupt and Danae was sold at an auction. It changed several owners before it became the part of the Crozat Collection, where it stayed for a fairly long period.
It is difficult to understand how it was possible that the famous painter whose paintings and engravings were worth a fortune went bankrupt. In reality, there were many reasons, from the general economic situation in the Netherlands at that time, to the expenses of Rembrandt - art collector, who bought many works and rarities. The main reason was that Rembrandt was unable to repay the loan, that he took to buy his house, on time. In this building Rembrandt Museum is now located.
Rembrandt, unlike his Italian predecessor, does not depict the time of Zeus' visit, but, more likely, the moments of anticipation. Dutch artist is not so interested in the myth, he interprets it very freely, for him it is just an opportunity to tell us his love story. We do not see either the god or the golden rain, it is replaced with a ray of light that fills the bedroom and caress the body of Danae. The composition resembles a take from the film, when the two protagonists see the third person, but we, the spectators, do not see him. Probably Rembrandt could have been a good film director, all his paintings are living stories and they evolve in the space of his canvases and outside. By looking at them we can always reinvent the stories.
For Rembrandt this is the story of pure love, we cannot call his Danae as erotic, beautiful and desired as Titian's. The love of Danae of the Dutch master is a divine miracle, reinforced by the presence of Cupid at the head of the bed, the symbol of chastity. Rembrandt's Danae is an emotional woman, she is in love and she is curious, she is excited about what is happening to her and she is afraid of it at the same time. This spectrum of feelings is reinforced by the gesture of the woman's hand.
Just as in Titian's painting, in Rembrandt's work we can see an old maid, she is watching Danae but she does not collect the gold from the rain. We do not see the rain in the painting and for this reason historians debated the subject of the painting, they suggested that it could be Hagar, Rachel, Sarah or Delilah ...
Now, thanks to the restoration and the x-rays we know that there was rain in the first version that was later replaced by light, and we have no doubts about the plot – it is Danae. After this detailed study of the painting we can unravel many its enigmas and the very process of its creation.
However, the large-scale restoration happened under very sad circumstances and it is time to tell you the tragic part of the story of beautiful Danae, probably, the most tragic in the history of art!