Artemisia Gentileschi may have been only nineteen years old when she fashioned this exquisite image of the mythological Danaë. Danaë's father had been told by an oracle that his daughter's offspring would destroy him, so he locked her in a chamber impenetrable by potential suitors. Undeterred, the god Zeus transformed himself into a shower of golden rain and impregnated Danaë. Artemisia adopted the seventeenth-century preference for golden coins rather than rain to depict the presence of the sly god. This very early work shows Artemisia's accomplished handling of the female nude as well as her penchant for narrative nuance: the coins thrust between the young woman's fingers become visual metaphor for the seductive but forceful entry of the god. The maid's head covering is a visual detail that provides vivid contrast to both the nakedness of her mistress and her luxuriant unbound tresses.
Museum Purchase and gift of Edward Mallinckrodt, Sydney M. Shoenberg Sr., Horace Morison, Mrs. Florence E. Bing, Morton D. May in honor of Perry T. Rathbone, Mrs. James Lee Johnson Jr., Oscar Johnson, Fredonia J. Moss, Mrs. Arthur Drefs, Mrs. W. Welles Ho / Bridgeman Images