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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
2000.272
People
Alessandro Allori, Italian (Florence, Italy 1535 - 1607 Florence, Italy)
Title
Allegorical Portrait of a Young Man in the Guise of Mercury Slaying Argus
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Mercury and Argus
Classification
Paintings
Work Type
painting
Date
1575-1580
Places
Creation Place: Europe, Italy, Tuscany, Florence
Culture
Italian
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/174915
Location
Level 2, Room 2540, European Art, 13th–16th century, The Renaissance
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
Oil on panel
Dimensions
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
2000
Object Number
2000.272
Division
European and American Art
Contact
am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu
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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 am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu