Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

About the work

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This is an image of 17th-century Dutch painter Rembrandt’s painting of the Roman goddess Bellona. She is specifically a goddess of war, while Minerva/Athena governs warfare, trade, the arts, and more. The gorgon-faced shield is part of Athena’s iconography. Here, Rembrandt depicts Bellona as a contemporary woman clad in full, costly, plate armor. Her long, flowing hair marks her femininity. Her armor bears marks indicating breasts, which would have been dangerous in real plate armor. At the time Rembrandt painted this, Holland was fighting the 80 Years War with Spain. This painting thus may have indicated Holland’s readiness for battle. Rembrandt paints the gleaming light reflecting from Bellona’s armor and the gems on her decorative skirt with luminous detail.

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