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Mercury and ArgusEnlarge image

Mercury and Argus, before 1836

J.M.W. Turner
British, 1775 - 1851
oil on canvas
151.8 x 111.8 cm
Purchased 1951
National Gallery of Canada (no. 5795)

Turner's romantic landscape has a classical subject. Seated on the rocks directly below the rays of the sun, with his back to us, Mercury lulls the shepherd Argus to sleep so that he can abduct the girl Io, for whom Jupiter had developed an overwhelming passion. He had transformed her into a white heifer, here identified by the red ribbon around her neck.

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