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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The famous Venetian artist, Titian, painted Danaë or as it is also known, Danaë and the Shower of Gold between the years of 1540 and 1570, as he painted several versions of this iconic image.

The paintings are all incredibly similar and form a series of paintings that were influenced and based upon Danaë who was a beautiful and mythical princess.

The famous myth by Ovid tells of how Danaë was imprisoned in a dungeon made of gold because of the prophesy that told of how she would murder her father. However, this did not stop her from being seduced by Zeus and becoming pregnant. It was then that he turned her into a wondrous shower of luminous gold.

Titian painted many variations of Danaë with the first painting now housed in Nsples. This first image was painted over two years, from 1544 to 46. He then went on to paint another version at the request of Philip II, the Spanish monarch at the time. After painting this version he then completed in total five paintings that were all similar and on the theme of Danaë and the Shower of Gold.

In several of the paintings we can see a dog that appears to be sitting by the feet of Danaë, while in others, Titian chose to not paint the dog. In some versions Titian chose to paint the companion as a magnificent gold figure, a haggard old woman and in others the figure is represented as a dishevelled nursemaid. In this particular representation of Danaë what we see is the nursemaid attending to her needs and no dog is present.

What the painting shows is Danaë as a striking figure, with the observer's eye drawn instantly to her voluptuous and reclining figure. Both of her legs are slightly parted and are raised, which gives an added sensual edge to the painting. Titian also painted his version of Danaë in the Rennausance style, as a sensual woman who was most probably a courtesan. He chose however to paint her face as that of a graceful lady, with no painted lips, in direct opposition to the sexuality of the body.

The overall image that is portrayed on canvas, via the painting of the clouds, the dark colours and the nakedness and vulnerability of Danaë, is that of condemnation and punishment.

Danaë is being punished for her sins and her apparent fall from grace. What can also be seen is the figure to the side of Danaë holding out a cloth to catch the gold coins that are falling down upon them, The coins and the area in which they fall from, is the only striking colour on the canvas, and represent the magical power of Zeus.

Although Danaë was perceived as a figure of corruption within the Rennausance era, Titus has also managed to portray on canvas her vulnerability, via her nakedness. She is unable to catch the gold coins that are pouring down upon her, all that she can do is look upon them. She is sensual yet powerless, and this is her punishment. Danae was also captured by Gustav Klimt.