Monday, March 14, 2011

Rembrandt's Lucretia


Rembrandt's Lucretia is at the National Gallery. The copy here doesn't do it justice; the contrast between the color on Lucretia and the darkness surrounding her isn't as evident, the candlelight effect of Rembrandt's lighting isn't apparent. Even the facial expression is missing something that can be seen in person.

Lucretia was a noblewoman of the Roman Kingdom who was raped by a relative of the king. After telling her husband what had happened to her, she took her own life. Rembrandt's paintings are often dark, but--for me--here that darkness represents the depth of time, how distant the history is: just this one story and a few others emerge from the Roman Kingdom (ca. 7-5th c. BC), and the rest is unknown. (And those few stories are impossible to confirm.)

But it's the facial expression that draws me. It's sadness, of course. But it's more than that; it's an apologetic sadness. As if to say, "It's too much. I'm sorry. It's just too much."

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