[There seems to be some confusion over the original title of this painting, with some calling it The Fall of Lucifer and others The Fall of the Titans. The museum holding the painting, the National Gallery of Denmark, calls it The Fall of the Titans, with no mention of Lucifer. So far I haven't found any definitive explanation online, but one site said the Catholics were responsible for placing butterflies strategically. I wonder then if they might also have preferred to give the painting a more biblical title and called it The Fall of Lucifer. Who knows? sh]
This painting erroneously titled The Fall of the Titans until the 1920s. Whether they Judeo-Christian or Greek mythological figures be, one can't help but notice those unfortunate butterflies covering the unmentionables of those fallen angels/future incubuses.
The Fall of the Titans is an oil painting of the Titanomachy made by the Dutch painter Cornelis van Haarlem in 1588–1590. The painting's dimensions are 239 × 307 cm (94 × 121 in). The work is in the collection of the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is a classic example of an ambitious work of the Haarlem Mannerists.
This typical Mannerist painting shows the Titanomachia, a story form Greek mythology. In this story, the Olympians (the Greek gods Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Aphrodite etc who lived on Mount Olympus) fought against the Titans for domain over the Universe. The Titans were giant deities, children of Uranus (the Primordial God of the Sky) and Gaia (Primordial Deity of the Earth) who resided on Mount Othrys. Cronus, the leader of the Titans, overthrew his father Uranus and ruled the Universe. Cronus however became paranoid and was fearful of everything who would endanger his rule. Knowing that he had overthrew his father, Cronus became fearful of his own children. Every time his wife Rhea gave birth to a new child, Cronus would eat the baby whole. Rhea managed however to hide her youngest child Zeus and brought him to a cave in Crete where he was raised by Amalthea. When Zeus reached adulthood he became a servant of his father Cronus (who didn't know Zeus was one of his children) and with the help of a potion Zeus managed to make Cronus vomit up his swallowed children. After freeing his brothers and sisters, Zeus led the group in rebellion against his father and the other Titans. After of series of battles Zeus and his brothers and sisters were victorious. The Titans were imprisoned in Tartarus. Zeus punished the titan Atlas by placing him at the Western edge of the Earth and holding up the Heavens on his shoulders. The titans are shown here on this painting falling into Tartarus. Painting from 1588-1590.
During the Golden Age, nudity continued to be a staple of Dutch painting despite the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation with its gauzily painted prudery. In the case of van Haarlem's The Fall of Lucifer (above) from 1588, the Catholics added amusing little butterflies.
The Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses relate the story of a reigning race of gods consisting of the titans, the cyclopes, and the giants who were challenged to a cosmic battle by the Olympian gods headed by Zeus.
The fierce battle, the so-called titanomachia, ended with the defeat of the titans whom Zeus cast down into Tartaros, the underworld, from where they cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
The artistic ideals
Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem brought all his artistic ideals to bear in the naked muscular bodies and the complicated poses. Studies from the nude did not become common until the late 17th century, but in Haarlem Karel van Mander (1548-1606) founded an academy that did not only use academic nudes for practice, but which also debated art theory.