In the late 1500s and early 1600s, there was a fashion for presenting mythological figures as a pretext for giving viewers images of fleshy women. The goddess Danaë was a popular subject. Her father, King Acrisius, had been told that she would bear a son who would kill him. To prevent such a fate, he locked her up in a room without doors or windows, only a skylight for light and air. Meanwhile, Zeus, the king of the ancient Greco-Roman gods, looked down through the skylight and desired Danaë. He came to her in the form of golden rain—in Bloemaert’s imagination, a shower of coins that poured into the chamber and into her womb. Soon after, Perseus was born. Years later, he accidentally killed his grandfather.
Image: Jacob Matham, Dutch, 1571–1631, after Abraham Bloemaert, Dutch, 1566–1651, Danaë, 1610, engraving. The William M. Ladd Collection, gift of Herschel V. Jones, 1916 P.725