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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Daily TWiP - Rembrandt’s painting “Danae” is viciously attacked today in 1985

Week in Preview

Welcome to Daily TWiP, your daily dose of all the holidays, historical observances, etc., we couldn’t cram into The Week in Preview.

It may seem odd to characterize vandalism to a painting as an attack, but it’s the most appropriate way to describe what happened to Rembrandt’s “Danae” today (June 15) in 1985.

Completed in 1636, “Danae” depicts the mythological character of the same name, who is famous for becoming the mother of Greek hero Perseus after being impregnated by Zeus in the form of a shower of gold. Rembrandt painted Danae reclining on her bed, nude, with her arms outstretched to welcome Zeus.

Considered one of Rembrandt’s greatest works, it has been part of the collections at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, since the 18th century. It was on display in one of the galleries today in 1985 when it was literally attacked by a museum visitor.

A man pulled out a knife and slashed Danae across her lower stomach and upper thigh, as though he were attempting to injure a human being. He then produced a container of sulfuric acid from inside his coat and threw it over the canvas, causing the paint at the center of the composition to splatter and run.

The name of “Danae’s” assailant has never been released; the only remotely identifying information available is that he was middle-aged and a Lithuanian national. Likewise, no motive has ever been established – the judge presiding over the assailant’s trial ruled him to be insane.

“Danae” had a lengthy healing process ahead of her. Although restoration work began the same day as the attack, it took 12 years to complete, requiring close work under microscopes by a dream team of Russian restoration specialists. She was finally returned to public view in the fall of 1997.

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- Teresa Santoski