Venus and Mercury

Jan Muller Netherlandish
After Bartholomeus Spranger Netherlandish

Not on view

Between 1597 and 1606, Jan Muller made a group of large-scale engravings after Bartholomeus Spranger, the court painter to Emperor Rudolf II. As in the present work all were mythological subjects with erotic themes or overtones, and Muller used a dynamically swelling and tapering line to capture the mannered poses and exaggerated musculature of Spranger’s subjects. Sometimes the patterns of the dense hatching take over, almost obscuring the physical presence, as is here on Venus’s buttocks and that of the cupid standing beside her.

Naturally Venus, the goddess of love, is often the subject of these stories, but she is usually coupled with Mars, the god of war. Here, instead, she is involved with Mercury, who lounges back on a chair, wrapping his arm around her, while she rests her knee on his thigh. Three small cupids encourage the couple, one pulling out a curtain to hide them, a grabbing Mercury’s caduceus – his herald’s wand – and the third hiding behind Venus but flourishing one of the magical arrows of love. Mercury, with his winged sandals and helmet, is the messenger to the gods and also the god of eloquence and patron of thieves. According to the inscription below, he is exercising those traits to steal Venus’s love.

Venus and Mercury, Jan Muller (Netherlandish, Amsterdam 1571–1628 Amsterdam), Engraving

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.