Mercury and Argus

Mercury and Argus
Jacob Jordaens (Flemish, 1593-1678)
c. early 1640s
Oil on canvas 
47-3/4 x 72-3/4 in. (121.3 x 184.8 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
Not on View

This work is the product of a collaboration between two of the finest painters of seventeenth-century Antwerp. Jordaens executed the figures and cattle; Wildens, a landscape specialist, produced the setting.

The subject is taken from classical mythology. Jupiter, enamored of the beautiful Io, has transformed the woman into a white heifer in order to protect her from the jealousy of Juno. The suspicious Juno, however, gives the heifer to the hundred-eyed Argus to guard. In this scene, Mercury, sent by Jupiter to kill Argus, slyly approaches the watchman after lulling him to sleep with his pipe. Io stands placidly at the right.


Possibly Jaques de Roore (sale, The Hague, 4 September 1747, no. 79).
Brought to Ireland from Antwerp by Major Whitlock.
(Alexander Mangin (1732-1802) or William Ashford (1746-1824) et al sale, James Vallance, Dublin, 9 May 1803, lot 116);
Mrs. Talbot, Dublin by 1815, by inheritance to;
The Hon. Rose Talbot, Malahide Castle, outside Dublin, (sale, Christie's, London, 2 April 1976, lot 62 to;
The Norton Simon Foundation.

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