Mercury and the Moon are separated by an ornate Doric column. On the left is the inscription LUNA, beneath which the Moon is shown driving a chariot pulled by two dolphins along a bank of cloud. Likewise Mercury, on the right, drives a chariot pulled by cockerels, beneath the inscription MERCURIUS. At the lower right corner of the fragment the astrologer and alchemist, whose job it was to turn base metals to gold, represent these celestial bodies’ influence on health and good fortune.
The fragment was painted by an unknown artist, presumably English, and is based on engravings of the Seven Planets by Virgil Solis.
1659, now in Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain
In Greek mythology, Argus Panoptes or Argos, guardian of the heifer-nymph Io and son of Arestor, was a primordial giant whose epithet, “Panoptes”, “all-seeing”, led to his being described with multiple, often one hundred, eyes.
Argus was Hera’s servant. Hera’s defining task for Argus was to guard the white heifer Io from Zeus, keeping her chained to the sacred olive tree at the Argive Heraion.She charged him to “Tether this cow safely to an olive-tree at Nemea”. Hera knew that the heifer was in reality Io, one of the many nymphs Zeus was coupling with to establish a new order. To free Io, Zeus had Argus slain by Hermes. Hermes, disguised as a shepherd, first put all of Argus’s eyes asleep with spoken charms, then slew him by hitting him with a stone, the first stain of bloodshed among the new generation of gods.
According to Ovid, to commemorate her faithful watchman, Hera had the hundred eyes of Argus preserved forever, in a peacock’s tail.
The sphere of Marcus Manilius made an English poem with annotations and an astronomical appendix by Sir Edward Sherburne (London : Printed for Nathanael Brooke, 1675)
This folio volume contains the first book of Marcus Manilius’ Astronomicon, which is thought to be the oldest treatise on astrology, and a lengthy appendix by Sherburne.
The full version of the Astronomicon contains five books, the first on astronomy, and the remainder on astrology. The first book includes information on the constellations, planets, celestial circles and comets.
The sphere of Marcus Manilius contains a number of engraved illustrations, the most impressive being the frontispiece. This shows Pan on the left and Mercury (or Hermes) on the right with Urania, the muse of astronomy, floating above gazing at the heavens through a telescope. Pan is shown, somewhat unusually with wings, representing nature. Mercury (usually depicted with wings owing to his role as messenger) stands on a plinth inscribed ‘university of interpretation’ providing a connection between nature (Pan) and the celestial (Urania).
Jupiter, Mercury and Virtue,
c. 3rd decade of the 16th century,
Lanckoroński Collection, Wawel Castle
Dosso Dossi (c.1486-1542) was a Renaissance painter from the city of Ferrara in Northern Italy. Collaborating with his brother Battista, Dosso created some of the most groundbreaking yet baffling works for the dukes of Ferrara. Dosso’s paintings, however, remained largely unheard of apart from occasional appearances in academic journals, until a series of traveling exhibitions in 1999 brought the artist back in attention. Heavily influenced by High Renaissance masters Leonardo and Michelangelo, as well as by Venetian painters, Dosso adopted a rich yet still subtle colour palette. What set him apart from his peers, on the other hand, were his atmospheric and “impressionistic” landscape and imaginative treatment of mythological subjects. In 1523, commissioned by Duke Alfonso I d’Este, Dosso painted Jupiter, Mercury, and Virtue, a profound rendition on canvas of extraordinary scale (44 1/8 x 59 inches). The painting is an illustrious demonstration of Dosso’s skills and visions during of his mid-career. To show this, this paper includes a visual analysis of the painting as well as a description of major iconographic aspects in context with the artistic and social developments in High Renaissance Ferrara.
In Jupiter, Mercury, and Virtue, from a visual perspective, a trio of figures occupies the surreal stage-like setting; the leftmost is Jupiter, the king of gods in Roman mythology. Sitting with his legs crossed next to his thunderbolt, Jupiter is calmly painting butterflies on a blue canvas, a delicate extension of the hazy sky in the background. With his back turned to his father Jupiter, Mercury is seated in the centre with his winged hat and green drapery blowing fiercely in the gusty winds. He puts his fingers to his lips to shush a pleading female figure in a lavish golden dress and luxurious jewelry, identified as an allegory of Virtue.