John William Waterhouse
British, 1849 - 1917
This painting was stolen from the home of its New York owner (Mrs. Julia Ellsworth Ford) in October 1947.
In Greek mythology Danaë was the mother of the Greek hero Perseus and the daughter of Acrisius, king of Argos in the Pelopennese. It had been foretold that her son would cause the death of Acrisius, so he locked her in a bronze tower. But Zeus visited her as a shower of golden rain and Perseus was conceived. The king banished the mother and son by locking them in a chest which he then cast out to sea.
Waterhouse's painting illustrates their rescue from the chest by King Polydectes.
The myth continues that later, seeing Perseus as an obstacle to his love for Danaë, King Polydectes sent him to fetch the head of the Gorgon Medusa. The gods aided Perseus, and he slew Medusa. Fleeing from the other Gorgons, Perseus was refused aid by Atlas who was turned into a stone mountain by Medusa's head. On his way home, Perseus rescued Andromeda and married her. Later, while competing in a discus contest, Perseus accidentally killed Acrisius, thus fulfilling the prophecy.
Sources: Encyclopædia Britannica and Classical Mythology: the Ancient Myths and Legends of Greece and Rome.
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