Gentileschi’s Baroque masterpiece Danaë was the top lot at Sotheby’s $53.5 million evening sale of Master Paintings in New York. It made $30.5 million – more than seven times the previous world auction record for the artist. The monumental work was acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
Commissioned in 1621 by the nobleman Giovanni Antonio Sauli for his palazzo in Genoa, the work captures a scene from the myth of Danaë in which the daughter of King Acrisius of Argo is spirited away to a secret chamber to dissuade all male suitors. While mortals are deterred, Jupiter, God of the Sky and Thunder, is not — he catches a glimpse and promptly falls in love with the princess, materializing in her bedroom as a shower of gold coins. In Gentileschi’s rendering, Jupiter’s arrival is announced by Cupid who pulls back the curtains to reveal Danaë.
A figurehead of the Italian Baroque period, Orazio Gentileschi began his career in Rome where he, like many others of his time, worked in close proximity with Roman and visiting artists. By 1600, a young artist by the name of Caravaggio was a constant companion, whose friendship translated to great artistic influence. In his later years, Gentileschi became known as one of the most talented and distinct Caravaggesque painters, a trait that he passed along to his daughter, the most celebrated female artist of the 17th century, Artemesia Gentileschi.