Last month, the National Gallery of Art in downtown DC welcomed a painting from one of the most revered artists of the 16th century Venetian School. Titian’s Danaë is on loan from the Capodimonte Museum in Naples, Italy. It is on view at the Gallery to commemorate Italy’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which also commenced in July, and will last through the end of the year. The painting is touted as one of the Italian Renaissance’s most sensory works of art. It best exemplifies the genre of “erotic mythologies,” which Titian propagated. The piece temporarily joins two other Titian masterpieces which are part of the gallery’s permanent collection, Venus with a Mirror (c. 1555) and Venus and Adonis (c. 1560).
Danaë, which represents that mythological mother of Perseus, is depicted nearly nude. A golden shower of coins spills from above her into her legs, illustrating the story of the god Jupiter impregnating the woman. A cherub stands before her with its eyes fixated on the coin shower. At the time Titian started the painting, it came to be known for its sexual liberty and continues to be a focal piece in the genre of renaissance mythological erotica.
Tiziano Vecelli, known in English simply as Titian, was born in the Republic of Venice. He was one of Italy’s most versatile painters, and mastered an array of genres. He was particularly known for his use of color in his works, and more specifically his application of color was of exacting interest. His style influenced many painters of the Italian Renaissance, and generations who followed.
My first introduction to the works of Titian was back in high school when my English class visited the gallery to view classic paintings to serve as the basis of several writing projects. I was captivated by his use of color, which interestingly highlighted otherwise dark and dank backgrounds. I found inspiration in the intricacies of his subjects; his detail really underscores the caliber of talent that came from the Venetian Republic.
Danaë will be on display at the National Gallery of art until November 2nd in Lobby B of the West Building. It is one of several other Italian art pieces that are visiting DC also in celebration of the 6-month Italian Presidency of the CEU.
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