- Reference number
- Rubens, Peter Paul (Flemish)
- Mercury and Argos
- 180 cm x 298 cm
- On display
- Colección Real (Torre de la Parada, El Pardo-Madrid; Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, cuarto del infante don Javier, 1772, nº 995; Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, antecámara, 1794, nº 95; Palacio Real, Madrid, antecámara, 1814-1818, nº 95).
According to Ovid (Metamorphosis, book V), in order to avoid her husband Jupiter's infidelities, the goddess, Juno, converted the nymph, Io, into a lamb and called on Argos, the shepherd, to look after her. Jupiter sent Mercury, the gods' messenger, to kill Argos and recover the nymph.
Rubens depicts Mercury without his traditional attributes. He only carries his sword and the flute with which he put his victim to sleep just before striking his mortal blow.
The composition is based on Italian Renaissance prints, and the figure of Mercury reproduces the movement of a classical sculpture. The diagonals and scorzos of the three figures display the artist's most Baroque style.
This work was painted for the Torre de la Parada, a small royal palace near Madrid, and was listed there in 1701.