The Old Testament Book of Daniel recounts how the biblical hero was condemned to spend the night in the lions' den for worshipping God rather than the Persian king Darius. Depicted here is the following morning when, after the stone sealing the entrance was rolled away, Daniel gives to God for having survived the night safely. For theologians, the image of Daniel being freed from the cave symbolized the resurrection of Christ from the sepulcher.
Rubens masterfully combined realism and theatricality in order to produce a strong emotional impact. Several of the lions, for instance, stare directly at the viewer, creating a suggestion that the spectator shares the same space as the lions, and thus, like Daniel, experiences the same menace of the savage predators. This immediacy is heightened by the fact that the beasts are portrayed full size on the huge canvas and depicted with convincing realism. The lifelike movement of the lions and their superbly rendered fur results from Rubens' direct observation and sketches made in the royal menagerie in Brussels. Complementing this veracity is the dramatic lighting and the exaggerated emotionalism of Daniel's prayerful pose.
Marks and Labels
Sir Dudley Carleton, 1st viscount Dorchester [1573-1632], English Ambassador to The Hague, who acquired the painting in 1618 from the artist in an exchange for antique sculpture; presented to Charles I, King of England [1600-1649], between c. 1625 and 1632, where it hung in the Bear Gallery at Whitehall; James Hamilton-Douglas, 1st duke of Hamilton [1606-1649], Hamilton Palace, Scotland, by 1643; by descent in his family to William Alexander Louis Stephen Hamilton-Douglas, 12th duke of Hamilton [1845-1895], Hamilton Palace; (first Hamilton Palace sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 19 June 1882, no. 80); purchased by Duncan for Christopher Beckett Denison; (his sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 13 June 1885, no. 925); purchased by Jamieson for the 12th duke of Hamilton; by inheritance to his kinsman, Alfred Douglas Hamilton-Douglas, 13th duke of Hamilton [1862-1940], Hamilton Palace; (second Hamilton Palace sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 6-7 November 1919, 1st day, no. 57); purchased by Kearley for Weetman Dickinson Pearson, 1st viscount Cowdray [1856-1927], Cowdray Park, Midhurst, Sussex; by inheritance to his son, Weetman Harold Miller Pearson, 2nd viscount Cowdray [1882-1933], Cowdray Park; by inheritance to his son, Weetman John Churchill Pearson, 3rd viscount Cowdray [1910-1995], Cowdray Park; (sale, Bonham's, London, 1 August 1963, no. 25, listed as by Jordaens and De Vos by Bonham's cataloguer, Mr. Lawson); withdrawn and sold by private treaty before the auction to (Julius H. Weitzner [1896-1986], New York); (M. Knoedler & Co., New York); sold 13 December 1965 to NGA.
- Exhibition of the Works of the Old Masters. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1873, no. 131.
- Exhibition of Pictures by Masters of the Flemish and British Schools including a selection from the works of Sir Peter Paul Rubens, The New Gallery, London, 1899-1900, no. 145.
- In Memoria, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1969, no cat.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 118
- Walton, William. "Parnassus on Potomac." Art News 65 (March 1966): repro. 37.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 105, repro.
- Jaffé, Michael. "Some Recent Acquisitions of Seventeenth-Century Flemish Painting." Studies in the History of Art 1969 3 (1970): 6-19, fig. 1.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 314, repro.
- King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 44-45, pl. 21.
- Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 66, pl. 49.
- Alsop, Joseph. The Rare Art Traditions: The History of Art Collecting and Its Linked Phenomena Wherever These Have Appeared. Bollingen series 35, no. 27. New York, 1982: 48.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 250, no. 317, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 362, repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 49, repro.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 220-221, no. 175, color repro
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Flemish Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2005: 166-174, color repro.
- Harris, Neil. Capital Culture: J. Carter Brown, the National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience. Chicago, 2013: 82.
Work of Art
Work of Art
- Event Name
- March 1–June 1
- Mon, Tues, and Wed at 1:00
- March 5, 2012 at 2:00
March 7, 2012 at 4:00
- East Building, Auditorium
- Name of docent
- 60 minutes
- Registration for this event begins on April 1, 2012 at noon.
- Download the program notes (100k)
- Italian Collection