Medea: Or the Marriage of Jason and Creusa
Rembrandt van Rijn ( Dutch, 1606 - 1669 )
The story depicted in this etching revolves around Jason, the leader of the Argonauts, and his abduction of Creusa, the beautiful, young, and wealthy daughter of Creon, King of Corinth. When Jason’s wife, the sorceress Medea, learns of Jason’s plans to marry Creusa, she seeks revenge by poisoning Creusa and her father and killing her own two sons. In this illustration, Rembrandt took considerable artistic liberties as he invented a scene that is not described in any line of the play, Medea: the marriage of Jason and Creusa. Set in a church, the subject might be mistaken for a biblical scene if it were not for the female figure in the foreground, who holds Medea’s trademark weapons of a dagger and a container of poison. Earlier impressions of this etching were intended as independent works of art for a small circle of connoisseurs. This etching by Rembrandt van Rijn was the frontispiece of a modern version of the Greek tragedy Medea. The unusual choice of subject matter likely prompted the inclusion of an explanatory caption:
Creus[a] and Jason here pledge their troth to each other.
Medea, Jason’s wife, unjustly shoved aside,
Was inflamed by spite, [and] vengeance drove her on.
Alas! Infidelity, how dear you cost!
Nicole R. Myers, DMA label copy, 2018.