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Print - Jason and the Dragon
  • Jason and the Dragon
    Rosa, Salvator, born 1615 - died 1673
  • Enlarge image

Jason and the Dragon

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:


  • Date:

    ca. 1663-1664

  • Artist/Maker:

    Rosa, Salvator, born 1615 - died 1673

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Etching with drypoint

  • Credit Line:

    Dalton Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D, case BOX, shelf 73, box A

Salvator Rosa (1615-1673) was born in Arenella near Naples and soon absorbed the energy and violence informing Neapolitan art, characteristics which would be apparent throughout his career. Rosa was a prolific etcher although he also produced drawings and paintings. He particularly favoured macabre and fantastic subjects such as the present one, which shows the Greek hero Jason charming the dragon, guardian of the Golden Fleece, with a potion given by the sorceress Medea, as related by the ancient Roman author Ovid in his book, Metamorphoses.

Physical description

Silhouetted against rocks and vegetation, a dragon lies on the ground dominated by a male figure in armour pouring over its head some liquid from a bowl, the man's cape is hovering over his left shoulder.

Place of Origin



ca. 1663-1664


Rosa, Salvator, born 1615 - died 1673

Materials and Techniques

Etching with drypoint

Marks and inscriptions

Signed in etching lower left

Object history note

Bequeathed by Dalton in 1900.

Historical significance: Although none of Salvator Rosa's etchings are dated, this etching is traditionally ascribed to a date ca. 1663-64. It is a fine example from Rosa's large output of prints and shows a rarely-depicted episode from the ancient author Ovid's Metamorphoses (7:121) when Jason, the Greek hero, tricked the dragon, guardian of the Golden Fleece, with a potion given by the sorceress Medea. Overcome with drowsiness, the dragon allows the hero to flee and continue his journey. This composition may be among the most significant of Rosa's large etchings inspired by magic and sorcery, among his favourite subjects.
The composition also combines two types Rosa frequently represented: soldiers and fantastic creatures. Rosa is famous for his large number of Figurine studies of lone armoured figures, etched and drawn; and for the inclusion in several compositions of skulls and other fantastic shapes, such as in the etching and related painting The Meditation of Democritus (Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen - KMS4112) and St George and the Dragon (Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris - no. 335) which presents a dragon very similar to the present one. Salerno (p. 149) considers that this version may be the first idea for the Jason etching

Rosa considered his etchings as original compositions and often turned them into paintings, with variants, so as to revitalise his concept. This practice was a departure from the tradition in which engravings were made after painted compositions to disseminate the image. The present composition is thought to precede the execution of a related painting, with slight differences, executed between 1665 and 1670 (Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal - inv. 1960.1251), while a replica, probably by the artist's own hand, is in the collection of the Earl of Harrowby, England.
A preparatory drawing is in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm (M.75.1), which appears to be scored for transfer although, as Wallace noticed (1979, p. 312), it is quite unusual to find such a high degree of finish in a preparatory study.

The original plate is preserved at the Calcografia Nazionale in Rome.

Descriptive line

Print, 'Jason and the Dragon', Salvator Rosa, Rome, c. 1663-64

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

The Illustrated Bartsch
R. Wallace, The etchings of Salvator Rosa, Princeton, 1979, p. 312, cat. no. 118.
S. Reed and R. Wallace, Italian Etchers of The Renaisssance and Baroque, Boston, 1989, p. 194, cat. no. 100.

Labels and date

Salvator Rosa 1615–73
Jason and the Dragon
About 1663–4

Rosa was an independent and eccentric artist who refused to work to commission. Yet, the originality of his vision captured the imagination of patrons and collectors, and his prints were in great demand.
This powerful composition is one of the latest and most successful of the large etchings that Rosa subsequently turned into paintings. The subject comes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It shows the Greek hero Jason charming the dragon, guardian of the Golden Fleece, with a potion given by the sorceress Medea.

Etching and drypoint
Dalton Bequest
Museum no. E.1300-1900 [01/07-30/07/2011]


Paper; Ink


Etching (printing process)

Subjects depicted



Prints; Myths & Legends


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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