CORREGGIO
(b. ca. 1490, Correggio, d. 1534, Correggio)

Danaë

1530
Oil on canvas, 158 x 189 cm
Galleria Borghese, Rome

Correggio's masterpiece, Danaë, depicts one of the four stories in Ovid's Metamorphoses about the "Loves of Jupiter", commissioned in around 1531 by Federico II Gonzaga in Mantua as a present for Charles V (the other scenes are in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna and the National Gallery, London).

The scene is set in an interior draped with rich and suitably folded hangings, framing a window opening onto the landscape, as if to "unveil" the union. Danaë, the daughter of Acrisius, King of Argos, and of Eurydice, had been shut up by her father in a tower with bronze doors, as it had been prophesied that she would gave birth to a son who would be the cause of Acrisius' own death. But Zeus visited her in the form of a shower of gold falling from a cloud, and from their union Perseus was born. The maiden is reclining on a bed of classical design ornamented with knobs. Nearby Eros, as an intercessor between Zeus and the maiden, and representing divine desire, helps her to hold the sheet, so as not to loose the seed. At their feet two cupids, one wingless and the other winged, and intended as a contrast between "sacred love and profane love", are busy engraving a tablet with an arrow. It is a perfectly handled and balanced scene, that, while reminiscent of Titian's paintings, is not free of influence of Giulio Romano.

Correggio's painting maintains a purity of style that never descends to the vulgarly erotic. Thus it reveals itself to be almost a prelude to some of Canova's sculptures and to certain neoclassical solutions: that sheet, rumpled so as to resemble an unmade bed became a model for a great deal of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century painting.

Danaë is frequently represented in Renaissance and Baroque painting. You can view other depictions of Danaë in the Web Gallery of Art.