Sold Without Reserve | JACOB VAN LOO | DANAË
Property from a Distinguished Private Collection, Sold Without Reserve
JACOB VAN LOO
Sluis 1614 - 1670 Paris
signed lower right: I: V: Loo
oil on canvas
canvas: 28¾by 25⅛in.; 73 by 64 cm.
framed: 34¼ by 30¾ in.; 87 by 78 cm.
This painting has been recently relined and cleaned and presents a beautiful and striking image. As such, there would be very little to do. Under UV: Recent restoration has focused on scattered sensitively applied retouches, which are visible under the light. Much of this appears to have been for cosmetic purposes, although there is an old repaired damage in her foot, a small spot in her knee, a few in her abdomen and wrist. There are as well small spots of restoration in the white sheet. In the figure of the old lady, a restoration is visible in her nose, with a larger one across her neck and into her chin, possibly addressing an old damage. There is some restoration visible in the dark drapery of the background along the upper edge and upper left. Otherwise, the restorations are applied with a "feathery" touch and scattered. Despite these restorations, the paint surface is very overall lush, particularly in areas such as the highlights in the gilt of the Auricular style gilt couch, the blue drapery, the sheen of the white sheet. The painting could be hung as is, although it may benefit from a new frame, which is presently a modern gild wood frame.
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Possibly, Jan Agges;
His sale, Amsterdam, 16 August 1702, lot 37;
Possibly Izaak Hoogenbergh;
His sale, Amsterdam, Verkolje, 10 April 1743, lot 44;
Anonymous sale ("The Property of a Lady"), London, Sotheby's, 8 July 1999, lot 36;
There acquired for $125,700.
Possibly, A. Pigler, Barokthemen, Budapest & Berlin 1956, vol. II, p. 62 (with incorrect lot numbers for the 1702 and 1743 sales; see Provenance);
D. Mandrella, Jacob van Loo 1614–1670, Paris 2011, p. 157, cat. no. P64, reproduced.
This charming and sensual representation of the myth of Danaë was executed in Amsterdam around the midpoint of the seventeenth century by Jacob van Loo, one of the principal practitioners of secular history painting in the city at that time. He was rivaled in this specialty only by Rembrandt and Rembrandt’s very successful pupils, Ferdinand Bol and Govaert Flinck.
Jacob van Loo was born in Sluis, Zeeland, probably between 1615 and 1620. The painter must have come to Amsterdam at a young age, as he is recorded there already in 1635. In 1642 he married Anna Lengele, sister of the painter Martin Lengele. The couple had six children, one of whom would become an important painter in France in the late 17th century and who would have two sons who became noted painters themselves in the 18th century. Thus, our Jacob van Loo became the progenitor of a dynasty of capable painters.
By all accounts Jacob van Loo seems to have had a productive and successful career in Amsterdam, first producing a series of genre paintings of people carousing in interiors,1 then turning almost exclusively to mythological scenes, no doubt in response to the appeal of international classicism to Dutch collectors. In the late 1640s to the late 1650s Van Loo perfected his craft of rendering male and female nudes in various depictions of Venus and Adonis, Venus and Cupid, Meleager and Atalanta, Diana and her Nymphs, as well as several bacchanalian scenes with numerous gods and goddesses reveling in alcoholic bliss.2
Then, suddenly an event occurred in the artist's relatively peaceful life that was to change its course permanently. In 1660 Van Loo stabbed a man to death during an altercation at an inn. He immediately went into hiding, but was sentenced to death for murder in absentia by a Dutch criminal court. Van Loo managed to escape to Paris with his son and studio assistant, and there he established a workshop that witnessed continued success. In 1661 he was already executing large history paintings that must have found appeal to French audiences.3 It is clear, however, that the artist’s work in France is distinctly lower in quality than the paintings produced in Holland. Nevertheless, in 1663 he was admitted to the Académie de Peinture et Sculpture, and in 1667 his family was awarded naturalized French citizenship.
The story of Danaë derives from Greek mythology, but it was retold by Van Mander in his widely read Schilderboek of 1604. The oracle of Delphi announced to King Acrisius that his daughter Danaë would have a son who would kill him. Acrisius immediately locked up Danaë and her maidservant in an impregnable brass room. The all powerful Zeus penetrated this chamber in the form of a shower of gold or golden light and impregnated Danaë. Danaë would give birth to Perseus, who later fulfilled the oracle’s prophecy and killed his grandfather. A famous painting by Titian shows Danaë (fig. 1), and it is quite possible that Van Loo knew this precedent through one of the many copies that circulated throughout Europe at the time. But other Netherlandish artists also depicted the dramatic moment of Danaë's impregnation by Zeus, such as the beautiful and subtle painting by Jan Gossaert in Munich of 1527, showing Danaë seated semi-circular chamber being dusted in specks of gold (fig. 2). Another famous precedent by Hendrick Goltzius from 1603, now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (fig. 3) shows Danaë asleep and reclining in completely nudity, but for a diaphanous cloth that she uses to mask her chastity. Van Loo was probably aware of this example by Goltzius, because in a closely related painting he shows Danaë asleep in a comparable pose, also being gently awoken by her maidservant as the shower of gold coins enters the chamber (fig. 4).
Imagined in an upright format, the present painting appears more monumental than the other depiction of the subject by Van Loo. It begs comparison to the most well known Danaë from 17th century Amsterdam, Rembrandt’s famous large canvas now in the Hermitage (fig. 5). It is possible that Van Loo saw this painting in Rembrandt’s studio, because it remained there for much of Van Loo’s working career in Amsterdam. Rembrandt's Danaë was largely finished in 1636, the date it once bore, then almost certainly reworked by the artist in the early 1640s, before 1643. The painting remained in Rembrandt’s house on the Jodenbreestraat at least until 1656, when it was listed in the inventory of the artist’s possessions that was drawn up for his bankruptcy; in the artist’s storage is described: “A large painting, being a Danae.”4 Rembrandt’s impressive painting, which must have been more imposing before it was cut down on all sides, he interpreted Danaë's enforced chastity with a fettered cupid, who seems to have turned into gold or bronze, probably in reference to the bronze room in which the princess was imprisoned. Another gold or bronze reference is seen in the enormous bed, with its exuberant detail in auricular style at its foot. Here we see a distinct citation to the painting by Rembrandt in Van Loo’s painting, in the deeply carved and gilded bed underneath the drapery in the lower left.
Despite its references to earlier renderings of the story of Danaë, the present work reveals a highly original conception. A reclining nude lies horizontally in a vertical composition, and the audience's eyes are directed upward by the standing servant, who warns of the surreptitious entry of Zeus in the form of gold coins, indicated by the index finger of her left hand. The old maid grabs the tassel to call for help, but the coins have already fallen on the blankets and the cautionary message has arrived too late: Danaë will become impregnated by the indomitable Zeus.
1. Mandrella, cat. nos. P.22, P.23, P.24, P.25, P.26 and P.29.
2. Mandrella, cat. nos. P.52, P.53, P.54, P.55, P.56, P.57, P.58, P.59, P.60, P.61, P. 61 (the painting under offer here) and P.65.
3. Marandrella, 2011, cat. no. P.127, reproduced in color, page 114: The Letter Received, or Sophonisba receiving the cup of Poison from Masinissa, signed and dated 1661; present location unknown.
4. Bruyn, B. Haak, S. H. Le vie, P.J.J. van Thiel, E. van de Wetering, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, III. 1635-1642, Dordrecht, 1989, p. 221: Op de Schilder koos: Een groot stuck, sijnde D[i]anae (The “I” was added later by the scribe)