Mercury and Argus

Jan Lievens (Dutch, 1607 – 1674)
circa 1625-1626
Etching and engraving
Mat : 20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.64 cm)
Sheet : 7 1/2 x 6 1/2 in. (19.05 x 16.51 cm)
Credit Line
Hope College Collection
Object Number

This print portrays a story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in which the god Mercury (Hermes, in Greek), shown here with his distinctive winged helmet, plays his flute for the giant Argus, shown here disguised as an elderly shepherd. The music lulls Argus to sleep, allowing Mercury to steal away with the nymph Io, shown here disguised as a cow, and deliver her to the god Jupiter (Zeus). The story was understood in ancient and later times as an allegory about inter-generational conflict and the clash between lust and reason. Artist Jan Lievens created this image when he was only eighteen years old and struggling to make a name for himself in the art world, along with his good friend Rembrandt van Rijn, with whom he shared a studio in the city of Leiden.

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Object Type