Mercury and Argus

Relief
1775 (made)
Mercury and Argus thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This ivory relief was perhaps made by T (Theodore?) Xavery in the Netherlands in ca. 1775.
The monochrome colouring of material meant that ivories such as this could ape in miniature the ancient marbles much valued by connoisseurs and collectors of the time. In the story from classical mythology, the all-seeing giant Argus was murdered by Mercury at the instruction of Jupiter. He had been sent by Juno to watch over Io, whom Jupiter wished to seduce.
The ivory is worked very finely, so that if held up to the light, the figures in high relief stand out against the flat translucent background.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Ivory relief framed in a gold rim with ring at top
Brief Description
Relief, ivory, Mercury and Argus, perhaps by Theodore Xavery, Netherlands, ca. 1775
Physical Description
Mercury seated under a tree on the left, wearing his winged helmet, is shown playing his pipe, the caduceus lying on the ground beside him, lulling the all-seeing giant Argus to sleep in a wooded landscape his head supported on his left hand; his right hand rests on his staff. From behind a tree on the right emerges Io in the form of a heifer.
Dimensions
  • Horizontal, whole height: 9cm
  • Vertical, ivory alone height: 7.5cm
Object history
Bought from Cyril Humphris, Ltd., for £30, in 1964.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This ivory relief was perhaps made by T (Theodore?) Xavery in the Netherlands in ca. 1775.

The monochrome colouring of material meant that ivories such as this could ape in miniature the ancient marbles much valued by connoisseurs and collectors of the time. In the story from classical mythology, the all-seeing giant Argus was murdered by Mercury at the instruction of Jupiter. He had been sent by Juno to watch over Io, whom Jupiter wished to seduce.

The ivory is worked very finely, so that if held up to the light, the figures in high relief stand out against the flat translucent background.
Bibliographic Reference
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, cat. no. 112
Collection
Accession Number
A.17-1964

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record createdApril 26, 2005
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