Danae (c.1554)

Tiziano (c.1488-1576)

Oil on canvas, 120 x 187 cm
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

Danaë is one of five paintings that the master produced on the subject of the popular Greek myth. An oracle told King Acrisius that he would be killed by his as-yet unborn grandson. In order to outwit fate, the King shut his only child, Princess Danaë, up in a tower, condemning her to a life of celibacy. But Zeus, the supreme god, attracted by the girl’s beauty, managed to get in to her in the form of a shower of gold. Titian depicted the moment of this marvellous meeting: Zeus’ head shows through a break in the clouds and gold streams onto the Princess’s bed as the aged servant tries to catch it in her apron. The comic figure of the unattractive old woman sets off the radiant beauty of Danaë, who resembles an ancient statue in her physical perfection. Only in contrast to the old marbles, her skin seems warm, as if there really is hot blood flowing beneath it. Therein lies the magic of Titian’s brush. Like the mythical Pygmalion he was capable of breathing life into each of his creations. (SHM)