CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Looking closely: interpreting Rembrandt’s ‘The abduction of Ganymede’

Lecture: 20 May 2015

In conjunction with the exhibition The Secret of Dresden: from Rembrandt to Canaletto, on view in the Groninger Museum until the 25th of May, the museum and the department of Art History of the University of Groningen organize a lecture by Dr. Barbara Gaehtgens titled Looking closely: interpreting Rembrandt’s ‘The abduction of Ganymede’.

The lecture will take place in the auditorium of the Groninger Museum on the 20th of May at 15:00.

Please register before May 6th by sending an e-mail to

Admission is free for all members of CODART, students and members of the Onderzoekschool Kunstgeschiedenis.

Information from the organizers, 7 April 2015

The lecture: Looking closely: interpreting Rembrandt’s ‘The abduction of Ganymede’
The lecture will focus on an early work by Rembrandt which has been puzzled many generations of Rembrandt scholars.The painting seems to illustrate the classical Greek myth of the abduction of Ganymede by the eagle-guised Zeus, who, as the story goes, desired the beautiful youth as his cup bearer on Olympus. The theme had been represented by many artists including Michelangelo and Rubens.But Rembrandt’s representation is unusual. Instead of picturing the beautiful ephebic nude, he represents a screaming, urinating toddler who is squirming to free himself from the grip of an enormous eagle that is lifting the boy high up into the air and towards the sun.
The lecture will discuss other ways of understanding the painting. Through a reexamination of the preparatory drawing and other materials, it is possible to present new aspects of interpreting this puzzling painting.

About Barbara Gaehtgens
Barbara Gaehtgens is an independent art historian based in Los Angeles who made her mark in art history with her book on Adriaen van der Werff, a painter who in his time was one of the most famous Dutch artists in Europe (“Adriaen van der Werff, 1659-1722”, Deutscher Kunstverlag, München, 1987). She has also written numerous book essays and articles on Dutch, German and French Art in addition to editing a book on genre painting (“Genremalerei. Geschichte der klassischen Bildgattungen in Quellentexten und Kommentaren”, Berlin, Reimer, 2003) and co-authoring books on Richelieu (“Richelieu patron des arts”, Paris, Maison des sciences de l’homme, 2009) and on the German painter Max Liebermann (“Max Liebermann and International Modernism”, New York, Berghahn, 2011). Her special interest is the relation between art and politics.

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