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In ‘Rembrandt Curated’ we combine an artwork by Rembrandt with a work by another artist. The two works evoke associations with one another, whether it is the theme, composition, color scheme, or just a feeling. The ‘Rembrandt Curated’ of this week: Il Giampetrino, Lucrezia Romana, c. 1500-1540 (Chazen Museum of Art, Madison) and Rembrandt, Lucretia, 1664 (National Gallery of Art, Washington).

The story of Lucretia, recounted by the Roman writer Livy, takes place in 600 BC in Rome. Lucretia was the wife of a nobleman, known for her loyalty and faithfulness. Her virtue sparked desire in Sextus Tarquinus, the son of the ruling tyrant, and he decided to pay her a visit. Lucretia received him as an honored guest, but he later betrayed her hospitality by threatening to kill her if she did not give herself to him. The next day, Lucretia confessed this crime to her husband and father. Although she was innocent, she wanted to protect them from dishonor. She took a dagger from her dress and committed suicide.

Many history painters found this story irresistible; the dramatic events of the rape and the suicide inspired many paintings throughout art history. Both Il Giampetrino (Giovan Pietro Rizzoli) and Rembrandt chose the moment of suicide for their depictions of this story. However, we can see several differences in both depictions. Il Giampetrino’s painting we see that Lucretia already pierced her chest with the dagger, whilst Rembrandt shows us the moment leading up to her suicide. The tension in Rembrandt’s painting is palpable, which is strengthened by the solemn and sad look in Lucretia’s eyes. In Il Giampetrino’s painting Lucretia gazes quite neutrally in the distance, and the focus in this work seems to be pulled more towards her sensual, naked body than towards the emotion and intensity of this story. Rembrandt depicted Lucretia’s suicide a second time, in his painting from 1666.

What are your thoughts on these two artworks? Do they form a good pair? We would love to hear what you think!

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