HONDIUS, Abraham Danielsz.
(b. ca. 1625, Rotterdam, d. 1691, London)

Mercury and Argos

Oil on canvas, 99 x 126 cm
Private collection

The source of the subject is Ovid's Metamorphoses.

The love affairs of gods never bode well for mortals; there were times when they caused nothing but suffering even for some of the nymphs. Io, the beautiful daughter of the river god Inachus, fell prey to the passion of Jupiter, who - in order to hide her from his jealous wife - turned the girl into a cow. The wily Juno talked her husband into giving her the fine-looking animal and had the hundred-eyed Argus guard it. Jupiter gave Mercury the task of killing the wicked guard. The inventive god (the Greeks called him "Hermes dolios", the schemer) approached the meadows, herding some goats which he had stolen along the way, and played songs on his pipe. The guard was charmed by the new and masterful melodies.

The painting is signed centre right on Argos' water flagon: Abraham Hondius.