- Inventory number
- Rubens, Peter Paul (and Workshop)
- Mercury and Argos
- 180 cm x 298 cm
- On display
- Colección Real (Torre de la Parada, El Pardo-Madrid, 1701, tercera pieza, s.n.; Torre de la Parada, Pieza septima, quarto de la Reina, 1747, nº 91; Palacio Nuevo, Madrid, cuarto del infante don Javier, 1772, nº 995; Palacio Nuevo, antecámara, 1794, nº 95; Palacio Nuevo, antecámara, 1814-1818, nº 95; Real Museo de Pinturas a la muerte de Fernando VII, Madrid, 1834, nº 371)
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 scorzi 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.