Danhauser, whose father was the owner of a furniture factory, attended the Vienna Academy from 1820 to 1826, studying, inter alia, under Johann Peter Krafft (1780 - 1856). In the initial stages of his artistic career, he executed historicising illustrations. In 1828, Danhauser stayed in Erlau/Eger, working on a large altarpiece commissioned by the archbishop. After his father's deah, he became artistic director of the furniture factory, and his designs shaped the style of furniture in the Vienna Biedermeier period. In 1836, the artist received the Academy award; in 1841, he became professor of the history painting class. Danhauser primarily painted portraits and genre scenes. He was a brilliant draughtsman and invariably did several preparatory detail and composition studies before starting work on the actual painting. Inspired by William Hogartn (1697 - 1764) and Jan Steen (1625/26 - 1679), he devoted the time between 1836 and 1844 to the painting of pictorial narratives, critical of society.
The Widow's offering
This is one of Danhauser's frequent appeals to the beholder's sense of morality by means of a metaphoric genre painting with religious content. A corpulent, expensively rigged out couple conspicuously demonstrate their hypocritical charity towards the "right" recipient. Obviously wanting to attract attention, the husband drops coins into the tin collection box of an obsequious sexton at the curch portal. Pushed, as it were, into the background by the wif's sumptuous dress, a widow instructs her little son to give a coin to a blind beggar. The genuine charity of the widow, who herself knows what it is to suffer, is symbolised by the cross on the wall. Through his memorable characterisation of the protagonists, Danhauser gives a powerful and trenchant rendering of the New Testament message that, when giving alms, one should do so in secret. With unmistakable, even caricatured facial expressions and body postures, he creates powerful contrapuntal effects in space and colour combined with great attention to detail. Several draft drawings illustrate the process leading to the execution of the painting. Mention should be made, inter alia, of a dated watercolour study of 1836, Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien, Inv. No. 18.439, and another compositional study done in water colour over pencil in 1838, which is currently in the Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Inv. Nr. 5.116.
Gabriele Groschner, Thomas Habersatter, Erika Mayr-Oehring: Masterworks. Residenzgalerie Salzburg, Salzburg 2001, S. 122