Danae (c.1531)

Correggio (c.1489-1534)

Oil on canvas, 161 x 193 cm
Galleria BorgheseRoma

Together with Leda, Ganymede Abducted by the Eagle, and Jupiter and Io, this painting forms part of a well-known series of Jupiter’s loves, painted by Correggio for Federico II Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, who in turn gave them to Charles V. The gift was perhaps made in Bologna in 1530, or more likely in November 1532, when the Emperor stayed in Mantua. The subject of the work is Danaë, daughter of King Acrisius, locked up in a tower to prevent her giving birth to children. The scene depicts the moment in which she couples with Jupiter, who according to Ovid took the form of a golden rain. Perseus was born of that union; as the oracle predicted, he killed the Argive king.

The composition is one of the rare works by Correggio set in an indoor, domestic space. The scene is enriched by the presence of Hymen, protector of marriage, and by two cupids who test the purity of the gold on a touchstone, a gesture which alludes to Jupiter’s genuine love for the princess, which is deemed here to be pure and priceless. (GB)

See also:

Charles V (1500-1558) | Federico II Gonzaga, 1st Duke of Mantua (1500-1540) | Ovid (43 BC-17/18 AD)