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Nude Woman with a Snake
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This image is available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program.

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
Dutch, about 1637
Red chalk heightened with white bodycolor

9 11/16 x 5 7/16 in.
81.GB.27

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Who is this woman? She stands nude, squeezing her breast with one hand while holding a large snake behind her with her other hand. The snake, the headdress, and her bared breast suggest that Rembrandt meant to depict Cleopatra, although recent scholars have suggested that the figure has certain aspects of Eve. In fact, Rembrandt used this drawing as the basis for his depiction of Eve in his drawing and subsequent etching Adam and Eve of 1638.

Rembrandt applied red chalk energetically, describing the swell of the woman's belly with strong horizontal strokes. Vertical shading along her legs conveys her body's taut strength. He also exploited the brilliance and luminosity of the red chalk by applying white gouache underneath it, particularly in the woman's arm and torso. The glowing quality of the red chalk with white underneath and the solid three-dimensionality of form create a sense of energy radiating from her.