LASTMAN, Pieter Pietersz.
(b. 1583, Amsterdam, d. 1633, Amsterdam)

Odysseus and Nausicaa

Oil on panel, 92 x 117 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

The fact that Lastman visited Italy and that, while he was there, he was profoundly influenced by Elsheimer, is evident in this painting of the shipwrecked Odysseus found naked by Nausicaa and her entourage. The pictorial structure, the individual gestures and formal pathos are theatrical, and the setting itself is charged with meaning. The artist has taken a highly original approach in placing the figures, with their gestures of surprise and fright and their outstretched arms, against a pale sky - a motif Rembrandt was soon to adopt. One thing, however, is particularly remarkable about this painting, and it foreshadows an element that is to emerge strongly in later Dutch painting: the element of the "portrait historié". We have the impression here that a historic event is being played by specific persons, as though in a theatrical role. History painting and the reality of the protagonists are widely divergent.

In this painting, the naked Odysseus not only looks like the great hero of the Trojan war, but he is also caricatured in his all too human role. Lastman increased the figurative detail of his staffage and with that the realism and narrative impact of his work. The young Rembrandt also adopted this sense of tension.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 13 minutes):
Claudio Monteverdi: Il ritorno d'Ulisse, Act I, Duet of Odysseus and Pallas Athene