Lucretia (Rembrandt, 1666)

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Rembrandt van Rijn - Lucretia - Google Art Project (nAHoI2KdSaLshA).jpg
Year1666 (1666)
CatalogueRembrandt Research Project, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings VI: #314
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions110.2 cm × 92.3 cm (43.4 in × 36.3 in)
LocationMinneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis

Lucretia is a 1666 history painting by the Dutch Golden Age painter Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn in the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art[1]. It depicts a myth about a woman by the name of Lucretia who lived during the ancient Roman eras. She committed suicide to defend her honor from being raped by an Etruscan king's son. She is known as a heroine to the Romans for her self sacrifice. The Romans celebrated the feminine ideals of virtue and chastity.[2]


It was quite popular during the Baroque period for artists to paint Lucretia.[2] Rembrandt was one of the many Dutch artists who carried the story throughout Northern Europe.[2] It has been suggested by Svetlana Alpers that there is a significant link to the painting and his mistress Hendrickje Stoffels. In 1663, when he portrayed her as Bathsheba. Hendrickje had been chastised for "living like a whore", by the Dutch Reformed Church when she give birth to their illegitimate daughter, Cornelia van Rijn.[3] She shared the guilt of the reified and sexually compromised woman which limited their position within patriarchy.[3]

Rembrandt never married Hendrickje because of the unfortunate event that was caused by Saskia van Uylenburgh (Rembrandt first wife) which threatened his income.[3] He was not allowed to remarry even if he wanted to inherited their son Titus. Titus was the sole survivor out of their three children who died shortly after birth. After the death of his wife in 1642, he hired a wet-nurse who goes by the name Geerje Dircx to take of his son. They soon became lovers for several years, but it did not long. The couple broke up which lead to a court-case for "breach of promise." She expected to marry him after being given a ring from his deceased wife.[4] While they were quarreling over the law-suit, he hired Hendrickje as a housekeeper and became his new mistress. Rembrandt promised to pay Dircx over the condition that she would not change her will which name Titus as her heir.[4]After couple of years of being blackmailed, in 1650, he managed to send Geertje to a woman's house of correction and be free.[5] Even though Hendrickje and Rembrandt never got marry she became a longtime partner as they remained together up till Hendrickje death. Aplers noted the patriarchal motives underlying for the Minneapolis painting is Rembrandt guilt in not marrying Hendrickje and the displacement of his domestic life. He knew what Hendrickje's experience and used her as "Lucretia" to explore the full humanity of a woman, a tragic object of desire.[3]


Rembrandt Bathsheba in het bad, 1654

Lucretia is wearing a beautiful golden dress which displays to the general public that you sit at the status of a wealthy woman.The style of the dress is inspired by the Renaissance. Even though her dress is somewhat disarray, exposing her under garment, the fabric of her dress is stained with blood, signifying an acceptance of her death. On her right hand size she is gripping a dagger that caused the wound to her heart, while the left hand grips what seems to be a bed tassel.[6]Her face embodied despair and hopelessness, her small lips expresses the desperate sadness that she bears from her honor being taken from her. The painting of Lucretia is not supposed to idealized beauty. The color of her skin has a sickening pale color to it and there a glint of a white pearl earring that contrast the background.


This painting is depicting an ancient Roman myth written by a man named Livy who was a Roman historian covering the period from early legends of Rome through the reign of Augustus. During the ancient Roman and Greek era, myths and legends of women committing suicide to keep their virtue pure was a popular among them. It was a way to promote feminine ideals for female to follows.[7] As the legend goes, Lucretia was a noblewoman who was married to Lucius while her husband was out performing his duty, her husband's friend Sextus and few of his men went to visit her. They wanted to see who out of all of them has the most virtuous wife. Lucretia gracious hosted her husband guess, but as nightfall came everyone left expect Sextus. He was determined to have Lucretia for himself. After a couple of days had pass he went back to see her that she either she sleep with him or get killed along with a servant to make it seems that she was having an affair with a servant.[3] The next day, she sent a letter to her father Lucretius and her husband. When they arrived, she explained what had happened to her. Lucretia was eager and impatient for them to get revenge for her, but she stabbed herself before they went off stating that her punishment was necessary, because of her chastity if being a wife was taken away from her and it was not excused even though she was raped.[8]

Rembrandt van Rijn, Lucretia, 1664, NGA 83

Similar Work[edit]

Rembrandt painted another Lucretia in the year of 1664 it is now in the National Gallery of Art.[9] This painting is quite different from the one that was made in 1666. It follows the iconographic tradition which show the dagger before she stabbed herself. There was a comment made by Sir Lawrence Gowing that the Minneapolis figure is not Lucretia, but another Roman heroine who goes by the name of Arria who stabbed herself to encourage her husband, Paetus, who was sentenced to death by Claudius for rebelling against him[10]. Rembrandt used many of his family and friends as model for his painting, for the painting that was made in 1664 it was commented that his daughter-in-law Magdalena Van Loo was the one who posed for this painting and many more.[11]


Caravaggio influences spread to the Netherlands which provided adaptation of figural postures, structural principle and tenebrism[6]. The example of Caravaggio's style is illuminated figures, spot-lit, emerging from surrounding shadow. Which shows in the painting, Where shows the spot light is on Lucretia since she is the focus. Expressive postures is something that Caravaggio is known for; in the painting we see Lucretia holding on the bed tassel to hold balance because she is growing weak from losing blood. The dark shadow that is called tenebrism is Caravaggio signature style; we can see the dark shadows on her face and dark background pull her towards the viewers.[6] There is evidence that Rembrandt learned Caravaggio's compositions, such as their evidence for other artist using his name and style, like the Carracci and many more.There might be a connection between the Caravaggio David and Rembrandt's Lucretia painting; the body have similar composition. The head share similar abstraction as they both have their head slightly tiled to an angle. Both forms end below the waist, with horizontal marks on Lucretia dress reflect examples to David's preferred bone structure in his artwork. Lucretia's chain across her dress is closely similar to the line of David’s shirt. While David is holding the head of Goliath, Rembrandt introduce Lucretia holding a bed tassel.[6].

Caravaggio - David con la testa di Golia


  • Private collection Jean-Baptiste Wiscar, Lille/Rome
    • possibly part of the collection of Jean-Baptist, by Nov. 1802 (Biikker/Schapelhouman/Krekeler 2014, online supplement p.21-22)
  • Private collection Michal Hieronim Radziwill, Nieborów
    • Private collection
  • Private Collection John Calvert Wombwell, London (England)
    • 1853-06-04 date of auction
  • Private Collection William W. Burdon, Newcastle upon Tyne
    • 1853-06-04 - 1862-06-28 date of auction
  • Private Collection J. Purvis Carter, London/Florence
    • 1877-after 1877 (Hudson 1969,no.21)
  • Reinhardt Galleries, New York City
    • 1926-1926 (Judson 1969,no.21)
  • Private Collection H.V. Jones, Minneapolis (Minnesota)
    • 1928-1927/1928 (Weller et al. 2011, no.50)
  • Private Collection Lydia Augusta Jones, Minneapolis (Minnesota)
    • Descent from her husband Herschel V. Jones
  • Minneapolis Institute of Art , Minneapolis (Minnesota)
    • 1934 -


  1. ^ "Lucretia, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn ^ Minneapolis Institute of Art".
  2. ^ a b c Young M., Arthur (1964). The Story of Lucretia: Echoes of Two Cultures. University of Pittsburgh Press.
  3. ^ a b c d e Hults, Linda C. (1991). Durer's Lucretia: Speaking the Silent of Women. Signs. pp. 205–237.
  4. ^ a b Crenshaw, Paul (2006). Rembrandt's Bankruptcy: The Artist, His Patrons, and the Art Market in Seventeenth-Century Netherlands. University Press.
  5. ^ "Rembrandt Chronology 1636-1650". Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d Hirst, Michael (April 1968). "Rembrandt and Itlay". The Burlington Magazine Publications LTD. 110: 221 + 223.
  7. ^ Small, Jocelyn Penny (1976). "The Death of Lucretia". American Journal of Archaeology. 80 (4): 349–360. doi:10.2307/503575. JSTOR 503575.
  8. ^ Hults, Linda C. (1991). Dürer's "Lucretia": Speaking the Silence of Women (Vol. 16 ed.). Signs. pp. 205–237.
  9. ^ "Lucretia".
  10. ^ Russell, Margarita (December 1888). "Rembrandt's Enterprise:The Studio and the Market by Svetlana Alpers". RSA Journal. Royal Society for the Encouragement of Art, Manufactures and Commerce. Vol.137: 60–62.
  11. ^ Becker, Emil (June 1910). "Hendrickje Stoffels the Companion of Rembrand". Fine Art Journal. 22: 324–332.


  • Lucretia in the RKD
  • Becker, Emil. “Hendrickje Stoffels the Companion of Rembrandt.” Fine Arts Journal, vol. 22, no. 6, 1910, pp. 324–332.
  • Hults, Linda C. “Dürer's ‘Lucretia’: Speaking the Silence of Women.” Signs, vol. 16, no. 2, 1991, pp. 205–237.
  • Crenshaw, Paul. Rembrandt's Bankruptcy: the Artist, His Patrons, and the Art Market in Seventeenth-Century Nederlands. Cambridge: University Press, 2006. Print.
  • Russell, Margarita. RSA Journal, vol. 137, no. 5389, 1988, pp. 60–62. Russell, Margarita
  • Small, Jocelyn Penny. “The Death of Lucretia.” American Journal of Archaeology, vol. 80, no. 4, 1976, pp. 349–360.
  • “The Story of Lucretia.” Echoes of Two Cultures, by Arthur M. Young, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1964, pp. 59–126.