20 June 2009

Danae: the 16th Century

Ovid does not tell the story of Danae in the Metamorphoses but alludes to it several times with reference to her son. Nevertheless, she has proved a popular subject for artists. Danae was the only child of Acrisius, king of Argos, who had been told by an oracle that she would have a son who would kill him. To avoid this, Acrisius locked Danae up in a room at the top of a tall tower. That randy old god Zeus/Jupiter saw her and fell for her. He came to visit her as a shower of gold, and in time she bore a son to him. Rather than kill his relatives, which would provoke the Furies, Acrisius stuffed Danae and her son, Perseus, into a chest which he threw into the sea, thus making Poseidon/Neptune responsible for their fate. Of course they survived and Perseus grew up to become a hero.

Our first picture was painted by Jan Gossaert (aka Mabuse) in 1523. It is now in Munich's Alte Pinakotek.

The above picture was painted around 1531 by Correggio. It is now in Rome's Villa Borghese.

Titian painted various versions of Danae and the shower of gold in the 1550s. The ones shown above are in (from top to bottom):
Naples's Museo di Capodimonte (but not on their website),
Madrid's Prado (type Danae in the search box -- don't miss the informative audio file),
St. Petersburg's State Hermitage, and
Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum.
(Feel free to play spot the differences with them.)

At some point in the second half of the 16th century Tintoretto painted the above picture, which is now in Lyon's Musée des Beaux-Arts, but not on their website. (all images come from wikicommons and are in the public domain)


David said...

I'm a huge fan of Strauss's penultimate opera Die Liebe der Danae (1940). I love the fact that it's anyone's private discovery, since it is so rarely performed. YouTube with Leontyne Price (wonderful appearance of Jupiter at 4:00 in); YouTube with Rosalind Plowright; Wikipedia article:




RWMG said...

Hi, David. Thanks for the links. Which of the youtube performances do you prefer? I was saving them for when I get to the 20th century. ;-)

David said...

They both seem OK and are different passages. I have an old live recording from Salzburg or somewhere (it might even be the premiere) which seems ideal. It's astounding what Strauss was discovering in himself in his late 70s, and that he'd go on getting better for nearly ten more years. There are two beautiful orchestral tracks conducted by Andrew Davis on iTunes.

RWMG said...

Don't get me started on iTunes. The podcasts and iTunes U are great, but unfortunately most of what they offer is inaccessible from outside a select group of countries (which does NOT include Indonesia).

David said...

Correction: Davis offers a symphonic fragment in one track. It's Ormandy who offers it in two and that's the version I'd recommend on iTunes, for £1.58!

David said...

I could email you those tracks (they are 6 and 3 mb), but they are probably drm'd!

RWMG said...

Probably so, but thanks for the offer all the same.