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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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It was Rembrandt's turn in 1636 to depict this iconic character from Greek mythology, namely Danaë

The story behind the mother of Perseus is well known to many of us, but Rembrandt's own depiction of her requires a special attention due to his extraordinary qualities as an artist. This huge oil on canvas is around two metres tall and wide, essentially making it a life size portrait.

It is clear from what we can see that she is welcoming someone into her room, as a hired hand helps out. The likely explanation is that it is Zeus who appears just off to the left of the canvas, someone who is famous for his relationship with Danae. Controversially, the artist would use his wife as model for this composition, before changing her face to that of his lover, Geertje Dircx.

Sadly this painting was to become yet another masterpiece subjected to a political or otherwise motivated attack. In this case the culprit was considered insane. Whilst in normal cases there has been a dawb of paint or knife incision, this Rembrandt painting took in both a slashing knife and acid attack by the same person.

Thankfully, restorative techniques are continuing to improve and this particular work was successfully repaired to an excellent standard thanks to the professional efforts of staff from the Hermitage Museum's Laboratory of Expert Restoration of Easel Paintings. The repair work took 12 years in total.

The original painting can be found at the Hermitage Museum, in St Petersburg, Russia and has remained there since the 18th century. It is believed to have been part of the collection of Pierre Crozat before making its way to this prestigious museum.

The Hermitage Museum is St Petersburg holds one of the finest collections of art anywhere in the world, covering a huge breadth of movements from the Renaissance all the way up to the 20th century. Other notable artworks include Leonardo da Vinci's Benois Madonna, Saint Peter and Saint Paul by El Greco, The Lunch by Diego Velázquez, Woman in a Garden by Claude Monet, The Dance by Henri Matisse and Composition VI by Wassily Kandinsky.

There have been many more famous depictions of Danae right across history, with three of the finest coming from Correggio, Klimt and Titian.