Rembrandt - BellonaRegular priceRs. 2,299 Sale priceRs. 2,669
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About the Original Painting:
Typical of Rembrandt’s domestication of ancient myth, this depiction of the Roman goddess of war may have reflected the Dutch readiness for conflict during the Eighty Years’ War with Spain. Rather than reaching for an idealised source in ancient sculpture, Rembrandt based his depiction of the deity on a contemporary woman. The glittering surfaces of Bellona’s armour and fearsome shield allowed the young painter to give a bravura display of his skill.
This unquestionably autographed 97.5cm x 127cm oil-on-canvas painting of 1633, depicting the goddess of war, has served as something of a touchstone in the history of Rembrandt’s connoisseurship and, more simply, taste. In earlier decades, the painting was often considered to depict Rembrandt's fiancée, Saskia, serving as a model in his studio, which, it is assumed, was already stocked with armour and exotic clothes. More recent critics have observed that the painting is not a portrait of any kind and that Saskia van Uylenburgh bore no more than a slight resemblance to the woman seen here. It has been suggested that the use of a local type as the model in a painting of Bellona was meant to suggest the new Dutch nation and its readiness to defend itself. A nationalistic tenor is also intimated by the Dutch rather than the Latin spelling of the inscription on the shield.
Schwartz (1985) associates this painting with Prince Frederick Hendrick and others who, in 1633, favoured continuing the war with Spain rather than offering a truce. The contemporary political climate is relevant, but the painting did not serve as a pamphlet; the patron and the intended audience were essentially the same. The picture could have been made to hang in one of the prince's palaces, an army headquarters, a civic guardhouse, or the home of anyone with patriotic views and artistic sophistication. With its masonry archway, a stack of spears, and a chair to the right, the background suggests the interior of a doelen (civic guard headquarters). The foreshortening of the archway and the figure (which is bottom-heavy partly for this reason) and abrupt recession implies a low, close vantage point, which would suit a chimneypiece in a room of normal size.
Indications that the painter kept one eye cocked toward contemporary connoisseurs are found in the showy light effects; the strong local colours and elaborate costume details; the attempted spatial effects of the shield and the foreshortened arms and shoulders; and the choice of such motifs as the Negroli-style helmet, the bejewelled bandolier, and, of course, the intended tour de force of a Medusa's head. Several of these elements cost Rembrandt more trouble than he anticipated. The breastplate appears to have been considerably revised in the course of execution. In an earlier stage of work, a different shield, seen from the inside only, was held in the right hand, and the left hand rested on the hilt of a sword, which stood tip to the ground and tilted toward the viewer. This swaggering pose was not so infrequently employed in pictures of potentates and military men of high rank.
The painting has been in a few distinguished collections. One of Rembrandt’s great admirers, Sir Joshua Reynolds, recommended it to George Temple-Nugent-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham. It was later owned by the baron de Beurnonville and by Colonel Michael Friedsam. His bequest to The Met helped to form a group of seven Rembrandts dating from 1632 and 1633 that reveal the artist's extraordinary range in those transitional years. [2016; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
(Source credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art- www.metmuseum.org)
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A dense 250gsm cotton-polyester blended canvas has a more delicate mesh texture that helps highlight the original art's printed stroke details, as opposed to a popularly touted thicker 390gsm with deeper woven textures that drown out natural art strokes — thicker isn't always better.
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