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Jun 29, 2013

Correggio's Danae: a soft porn or Virgin Mary's prefiguration?

Danae by Correggio (1531) - Borghese Gallery - Rome.

In Greek mythology Danae, the daughter of Acrisius, king of Argos was imprisoned in a tower after an oracle predicted the king  that her son would kill him.  But men cannot fight Fate and Zeus visited her in the form of a golden shower.   Perseus, born from this divine union, will accidentally kill the king as the prophecy had foreseen. 
 
Interpretations of Danae have been ambivalent and often contradictory. 
For misogynist Roman poets she was interpreted as a venal woman whose love can be bought for money. 
The myth was Christianized during  the 14th century and she became a sort of 'Virgin Mary', giving birth, impregnated by the Holy Spirit. 
Artists like Correggio and Titian in the Renaissance underlined the sensuality of the scene.
Coreggio’s Danae was mistakenly interpreted as a Venus by Vasari. 
 
A 'soft porn', part of a cycle of Jupiter’s Loves which Correggio painted towards the end of his life.  Commissioned by Federico Gonzaga, duke of Mantua, who continued the glorious patronage of arts started by his mother Isabella d’Este. 
Correggio's style reinterprets freely Raphael and Leonardo's suggestions.  This is one of my favourite paintings at the Borghese for its fascinating ambiguity:  how shall we interpret Cupid's gesture?  Is he trying to prevent  or to favour the 'union'?  Is he covering or uncovering Danae?

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