Gentileschi, Orazio (1563-1639)
This painting is part of a series of works executed by Gentileschi in 1622 for Giovanni Antonio Sauli’s Genoese Palazzo which includes the Getty’s Lot and His Daughters and a painting now in a private collection, The Penitent Magdalene.
The subject is based on a passage in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which King Acrisius of Argos imprisoned his beautiful daughter in order to avoid the Oracle’s prophesy that she would give birth to a son who would kill him. In the story, Jupiter takes the form of a shower of gold and impregnates Danaë, who then gives birth to Perseus. This subject was often exploited by artists as an opportunity to depict an erotic female nude. Here, Cupid pulls back the luxuriant dark green curtain to allow the god to enter the bedchamber, and the viewer too is invited to witness the moment of seduction. A transparent veil is draped across Danaë, though rather than covering her modesty, the fabric creates a tantalizing and sensual focal point on her body. The picture is a meticulous study of light, surface effects and color; the artist skillfully renders the sheen of the fabrics, ranging from the gold bedcover to the cool white linen sheet and deep crimson mattress. (JPGM)