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


Oil on canvas, 142 x 152 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Catalogue number: Bredius 468.

The subject of the painting is debated. Some of the critics thinks it represents Artemisia taking the ashes of Mausolos, while others assume it shows Sophonisba taking the cup of poison. In any cases, it is a representation of matrimonial love therefore it is assumed that the painting depicts Saskia, the wife of the artist.

Artemisia was the wife of Mausolus, the satrap of Caria in Asia Minor. She succeeded her husband on his death in 353 B.C., and erected a great monument to his memory at Halicarnassus - hence 'mausoleum'. It was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was said that she mixed the ashes of Mausolus in liquid which she then drank, thereby making herself, observes Valerius Maximus, making of herself a living, breathing tomb. Artemisia symbolizes a widow's devotion to her husband's memory. In Renaissance painting she is depicted holding a cup or goblet.

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