(b. 1767, Montargis, d. 1824, Paris)

Mademoiselle Lange as Danaë

Oil on canvas, 65 x 54 cm
Institute of Arts, Minneapolis

Girodet first depicted the actress Mademoiselle Lange as Venus, standing on her couch, her face turned from the viewer (Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig). When the actress expressed her annoyance at the painting, Girodet painted her again, this time in mythological form, Mademoiselle Lange as Danaë.

The oval canvas again reveals her lap unclothed, and in light fingers she holds a broken mirror, the symbol of Vanitas. At her feet lies the attribute of Jupiter, a bundle of fire. But Jupiter is not present in the form of the royal eagle, instead we see a turkey-cock. Cupid is looking out of the picture at the viewer and holding up the cloth that covered the actress' lap with an inviting gesture. The painting caused a scandal in the Salon of 1799 and had to be withdrawn. The actress' career was over, and Girodet fell into disfavour.

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

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 5 minutes):
Richard Strauss: Danaë's Love, Danaë's monologue