CULTURE MONSTER

Getty acquires Baroque masterpiece by Orazio Gentileschi

On Tuesday, Sotheby’s auction house feted the J. Paul Getty Museum at a private dinner at its New York showroom, with European Renaissance, Baroque and Old Master paintings from its next sale as an elegant backdrop.

At Thursday’s sale, the Getty returned the gesture -- in a manner of speaking -- acquiring Orazio Gentileschi’s Baroque masterpiece “Danaë” (circa 1621), paying $30.49 million (with buyer’s premium) for the sumptuous canvas. The hammer price was $27 million, at the low end of the $25 million to $35 million estimate.

The Gentileschi ranks among the most important European painting acquisitions the Getty has made in recent years.

The painting, whose dramatic lighting shows the profound influence of the slightly younger Caravaggio on Gentileschi, recounts the mythic tale of a beautiful Greek princess who was locked away and held prisoner in a tower by her father. The king feared an oracle that said her son would one day kill him.

The randy god Jupiter turned himself into a shower of gold, squeezing through cracks in the tower. Danaë gave birth to the hero Perseus -- who did indeed accidentally kill his grandfather, fulfilling the grim prophecy.

The painting is one of three on the theme of the relationship of women and god regarding sexuality, commissioned from Gentileschi by a Genoese nobleman. It cemented the artist's reputation.

One of the remaining two paintings in the set, the Christian-themed Old Testament story of “Lot and His Daughters,” has been in the Getty collection since 1998. The third, which shows the New Testament's Mary Magdalene, remains in a private collection.

A fuller story on the acquisition will appear later.

christopher.knight@latimes.com

Twitter: @KnightLAT

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