BALEN, Hendrick van
(b. 1575, Antwerpen, d. 1632, Antwerpen)

Herse and her Sisters with Mercury

Oil on panel, 29 x 21 cm
Private collection

Ovid (Met. 2:708-832) tells how three sisters, returning from the festival of Minerva and carrying her sacred baskets on their heads, were espied by Mercury who immediately fell in love with the most beautiful of them, Herse. Another of the sisters, Aglauros, was consumed with envy, and tried to prevent Mercury entering Herse's chamber when he came to her one night. He touched Aglauros with his wand and she turned to black stone, the colour of her thoughts.

The present playful and sensuous representation of the story is similar both in style and theme to a number of others executed by van Balen and his circle. Van Balen was specialised in small cabinet pictures which often depicted mythological scenes.