REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn
(b. 1606, Leiden, d. 1669, Amsterdam)

The Abduction of Europa

Oil on panel, 65 x 79 cm
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Catalogue number: Bredius 464.

The young Rembrandt was influenced by his teacher Pieter Lastman. As a history painter Rembrandt concentrated mainly on biblical stories, but, inspired by his teacher, he portrayed in this picture a story from Ovid's Metamorphoses: the abduction of the princess Europa.

Among the early works by Rembrandt, two mythological scenes, the Abduction of Europa, and the Diana Bathing, take place on richly wooded riverbanks. Both are scenes of divine intervention on earth. In the first the god Zeus abducts Princess Europa, and in the other the goddess Diana turns the unfortunate hunter Actaeon into a stag who is then devoured by his own dogs. The settings for the compositions are quite similar: a shoreline curves from the right foreground into the left middle ground; above it is an opening into a background that is blocked at the back. The largest elements in the compositions are massive, looming trees. This compositional scheme derives fromformulas that had been worked out by Flemish artists in the preceding decades. It was employed in a contemporaneous painting by Alexander Keirinckx, who moved in 1628 from Antwerp to Utrecht and is recoreded in Amsterdam in the mid-1630s.