Thursday, January 14, 2016


After enthralling visitors at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the last two years, 

Orazio Gentileschi’s Danaë will grace Sotheby’s New York to lead the Master Paintings Evening Sale on 28 January 2016 (estimate $25/35 million). This undisputed masterpiece is one of the most important Italian Baroque paintings to come to market since World War II, and Sotheby’s is honored to have the privilege to handle a work of this magnitude. The painting will be exhibited in New York 30 October – 11 November, followed by exhibitions this fall in Los Angeles, Hong Kong and London. 

Commissioned in 1621 by the nobleman Giovanni Antonio Sauli for his palazzo in Genoa, this fantastic oil on canvas 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 from falling in love and impregnating the beauty. While mere 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 in all her exquisiteness. 

The Sauli series was amongst Gentileschi’s most important commissions and also includes a Penitent Magdalene, in a New York private collection, and a Lot and his Daughters, in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu. 

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. The use of color, sensuality and splendor portrayed in Danaë draws together the Caravaggesque naturalism and Gentileschi’s masterful skill as a Baroque painter. 

While the subject matter is not one unique to Gentileschi, the variance in textures showcases the artist’s extraordinary ability to depict beauty and light. The nuanced treatment of the satin, linen and metals, combined with the refined composition of the overall setting, results in a sumptuous work of art and a dynamic representation of one of the defining moments of early seventeenth-century painting. A true highlight of Gentileschi’s oeuvre, Danaë is one of — if not the most — important Baroque paintings to come to public auction in decades.