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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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Minerva is the much celebrated Roman goddess of wisdom and war and was portrayed by Rembrandt van Rijn in 1635

Within this artwork there is the traditional style of Rembrandt which is to darken most of the scene, just adding light to the main focus of the piece, namely the portrait. There is still, however, plenty of symbolic interest to be found in the background if one looks closely.

On first glance the items placed behind the goddess appear randomly placed as an after thought, but when considering the significance of each piece it is clear that each inch of this canvas was well planned.

The facial expression and pose of Minerva suggests that she has been interrupted from her studies. The lighting brings particular attention to her long hair and also Minerva's beautiful attire. She appears to be in a small room, perhaps her personal study where she is normally allowed peace and privacy.

The model used in this portrait is clearly the same as that used in Artemisia and the overall paintings are also very similar, both in style and content. The latter has an additional supporting figure as well as a slightly different arrangement of items around the room.

Minerva has a small laurel wreath on her head which is to symbolise victory, whilst across the room you will also find a globe, golden helmet, shield and a spear. This intriguing portrait can be traced back as far as just thirty years after Rembrandt completed it in 1635 to a Scottish buyer, James Somerville, 12th Lord Somerville.