Mercury and Argus


Artist
Jan Lievens (Dutch, 1607 – 1674)
Date
circa 1625-1626
Medium
Etching and engraving
Dimensions
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
2016.25.4

Label
This print portrays the key moment in a story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in which the god Mercury, 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. The story was understood in 17th century Europe as an allegory about inter-generational conflict and the clash between lust and reason. It is fitting that 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.

Getty AAT
myths
Object Type
Print