Of all the ancient myths where rain plays an important role, the impregnation of Danaë by Zeus through a golden rain is perhaps the one most often depicted in art. This essay is dedicated to the artistic afterlife of the myth, with special focus on the painting of Danaë (1527) by Jan Gossaert van Mabuse (1478-1532).
Gossaert’s Danaë is a sophisticated articulation of outer and inner discourse: the hard, dry, background, with its eclectic architecture, in contrast with the sweltering, moist, foreground with the figure’s naked body. This essay develops Gossaert’s complex phantasmata surrounding architecture, decoration, and the female body in three spaces: the intimate space of impregnation, the psychosomatic space, and, third, the petrifying space of Medusa.
Barbara Baert writes:
“Danaë is the living emanation of painting as the uttermost exhibitionistic medium. Her unveiled skin fragile exposed in the midst of an overwhelming symphonic outburst of details, facades, windows. Danaë: martyr of glossy materials – marble and flesh – unable to disappear in her own skin; held hostage within a medium of walls. Her only desire is to disappear in the ultimate thin membrane, to vaporize beyond the harsh brocks and, then, at the very end, leave the medium of textile too. There were threads become drippings, lines become tears.”
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