To be or not to be…is Saskia Flora or is Flora Saskia?

You might have noticed a few days ago that Google had a tribute to Rembrandt’s birthday (15th July 1606).

floraRembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (15 July 1606 – 4 October 1669) was a well known Dutch painter. His paintings are a part of what is historically referred to as being part of the “Dutch Golden Age” of art.  He is responsible for teaching many Dutch painters his craft. In his latter career, he concentrated on portraits, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from The Bible. During this time, he suffered financial hardships and personal tragedy. But in his earlier career, he had some success as a portrait artist. For example at the age of 28 he painted this oil on canvas entitled “Flora” based on the Roman goddess of spring and flowers.

Flora” lives at The Hermitage in Leningrad. It has been purported that the model was Saskia van Uylenburgh who  became his wife in 1634.  It appears that doubts about “Flora’s” authenticity emerged in 1838, but these were later dispelled. There appears to be a record of a painting by Rembrandt entitled “Flora” which was sold in 1770 at the auction house of Harmen Arentsz in Amsterdam. Interestingly, another version of the painting, said to be identical in treatment and dated 1635, is in the National Gallery, London where it is known as “Saskia van Ulenborch in Arcadian costume“.

So, once again I ask, is Flora… Saskia and likewise, is Saskia…Flora?

To be, or not to be…that is the question“. – Shakespeare (Hamlet).

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