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Danaë and the Shower of Gold

after Hans Rottenhammer I (Munich 1564 – Augsburg 1625)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

1625 (before)

Materials

Oil on copper

Measurements

181 x 279 mm (7 ¼ x 11 in)

Place of origin

Germany

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Collection

Ham House, Surrey (Accredited Museum)

NT 1139912

Summary

Oil painting on copper, Danaë and the Shower of Gold, after Hans Rottenhammer I (Munich 1564 – Augsburg 1625), before 1625. Danaë reclines on a bed, her head to the left of the picture and her right side to the viewer. She has golden, plaited hair, pinned up, and is naked except for a pearl necklace and jewelled bracelet, and for the green bed-linen, which is draped over her left leg. Her right arm is behind her head, by embroidered cushions; her left hand rests on her left thigh. Pink roses are strewn on the bed. To the lower right, a muscly maid-servant with olive skin holds a bronze dish above her head with both hands and looks skyward. Above her, orange streams of light emerge from the clouds, and red droplets rain down. As recounted in the Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses IV, Danaë, daughter of Acrisius, King of Argos, and of Eurydice (Aganippe) was imprisoned in a brazen tower (or a tower with bronze doors), because an oracle declared she would bear a son who would kill his grandfather. Jupiter (Zeus) visited her as a shower of gold through the roof of her prison and she gave birth to Perseus. Acrisius attempted to drown the mother and son by putting them out to sea in a chest but they were rescued. Perseus fulfilled the prophecy when he accidently killed his grandfather with a discus during the public games. The original painting was given to Charles I by Robert Kerr, Ist Earl of Ancram (1578-1654), Ambassador to Frederick Hendrik, Stadholder of Holland and fellow collector. William Murray gave Charles or exchanged another Rottenhammer of Venus, Cupid and Satyrs.

Provenance

In 1683 valuation list and thence by descent until acquired in 1948 by HM Government when Sir Lyonel, 4th Bt (1854 – 1952) and Sir Cecil Tollemache, 5th Bt (1886 – 1969) presented Ham House to the National Trust, and entrusted to the care of the Victoria & Albert Museum, until 1990, when returned to the care of the National Trust, and to which ownership was transferred in 2002

Credit line

Ham House, The Dysart Collection (purchased by HM Government in 1948 and transferred to the National Trust in 2002)

Marks and inscriptions

Verso: in ink on the back: Danae by Rottenhammer. Pret: £40 [now invisible – too abraded to read]; in brown ink on old label: 148; in blue ink on laid paper: 96; on later label: B / 2750

Makers and roles

after Hans Rottenhammer I (Munich 1564 – Augsburg 1625), artist previously catalogued as attributed to Otto van Veen (Leyden 1556 - Brussels 1629), artist

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