Mercury Killing Argus
23.3 cm x 25.8 cm (9 3/16 in. x 10 3/16 in.)
(Antwerp, 1593 - 1678, Antwerp)
Medium and Support:
Etching, counterproof with pen and brown and black ink and white heightening
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Teaching Collection of Marvin Vexler, '48, 1997
Jordaens frequently treated the story of Mercury and Argus, drawn from an episode in Ovid's Metamorphoses (I, 568 - 721). In this print, Mercury has drawn his sword and is about to slay Argus after having lulled the watchful giant to sleep with stories and flute playing. The moral lesson of this tale is a warning about the consequences of lowering one's defenses against lust and other vices. This etching is one of the very few prints executed by Jordaens himself; many more were engraved by others after Jordaens's drawings and paintings. The Collection includes two impressions: a fine impression of the print's first state, and a counterproof -- an offset taken from another, freshly inked impression -- of an undescribed state that preceded the first and, through extensive working in pen, two colors of ink, and white heightening, prepared the changes to the plate that are then evident in the first state. Nearly as much a drawing as a print, this unique counterproof is an extraordinary demonstration of working procedure in an Old Master print.