About this artwork
Mercury and Argus shows Mercury, disguised as a shepherd, lulling the giant Argus to sleep in order to steal Io, the comely cow in the background of the image, for Jupiter. One of Jupiter’s many mortal lovers, Io was turned into a cow and put under the guardianship of Argus. But Jupiter tasks Mercury with killing Argus and freeing Io—the scene shown here. While Cantarini depicted Argus with two eyes, the giant was said to have a hundred. After Argus is killed by Mercury, his eyes decorate the peacock’s feathers.
With its poetic effect and mature technical ability, this is one of the artist’s most prized etchings. The composition dates to his late years in Bologna and is also known in a painting now in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, which may derive from the etching.
- Currently Off View
- Prints and Drawings
- Simone Cantarini
- Mercury and Argus
- Italy (Artist's nationality:)
- Etching on cream laid paper
- 25.7 × 29.9 cm (10 1/8 × 11 13/16 in.)
- Hannan Fund Endowment