Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

This portrait depicts a young man disguised as the mischievous Mercury after he has slain the hundred-eyed watchman Argus. Balancing himself on a puff of clouds as he holds a flute and caduceus (a staff entwined with snakes), he stands before a hillside that opens onto what Florentines would have recognized as a Flemish-style landscape. The Medici often identified themselves with classical gods, sometimes even assuming their guises in allegorical portraits. Francesco I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, was an enthusiast of alchemy and often had himself portrayed with an image of Mercury, who was associated with the metal of the same name. The facial features of this youth, however, more closely resemble those found in portraits of Antonio de’ Medici, son of Francesco’s second wife, Bianca Cappello.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Alessandro Allori, Italian (Florence, Italy 1535 - 1607 Florence, Italy)
Allegorical Portrait of a Young Man in the Guise of Mercury Slaying Argus
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Mercury and Argus
Work Type
Creation Place: Europe, Italy, Tuscany, Florence
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2540, European Art, 13th–16th century, The Renaissance
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Oil on panel
144.8 x 88.9 x 7.6 cm (57 x 35 x 3 in.)
framed: 162.7 x 104.9 cm (64 1/16 x 41 5/16 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Purchase through the generosity of Jessie Lie Farber, The Richard Norton Fund, and The Henry George Berg Bequest Fund, Gift in Gratitude to John Coolidge
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.
Exhibition History

32Q: 2540 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at