loading page

Loading the page ...

Pieter de Jode the Elder

(1570–1634, Antwerp)

Mercury Embracing Venus. Engraving after Bartholomeus Spranger. 17.2 x 12.6 cm. Circa 1590–95. Hollstein 97; Oberhuber 1958, no. 63; Strech 1996, no. 24; Bartholomeus Spranger: Splendor and Eroticism in Imperial Prague: The Complete Works, exhibition catalogue Metropolitan Museum New York, New Haven and London, 2014, cat. no. 204.

The love affair between Venus and Mercury is a recurrent theme in Bartholomeus Spranger’s oeuvre. The inscription beneath the image refers to this amorous liaison, which resulted in the birth of a son called Hermaphroditus, as a public secret. ‘Which sea, which star, which earth does not know the secret loves of the one from Paphos [Venus] and the son of Maia, daughter of Atlas [Mercury]?’ (translation from exhibition catalogue of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, 2014, p. 237). Although Venus and Mercury were not united by matrimony, the association of the two gods can be interpreted as ‘a visual epigram for conjugal bliss’ (idem). In his Moralia, Plutarch describes how the ‘ancients’ would place statues of Venus and Mercury next to one another ‘to signify that the pleasures of matrimony chiefly consist in the sweetness of conversation’ (Plutarch, Moralia: Conjugal Precepts, 138C). Preparatory drawings for the composition of the present print are kept in the British Museum in London and the Kunstmuseum in Basel. A fine, even impression, trimmed slightly within the platemark, with thread margins around the image. In perfect condition.

Contact us for further information