Io was loved by Jupiter who transformed her into a heifer (on left) to protect her from Juno's jealousy. Juno, discovering the heifer's identity, had it guarded by Argus Panoptes ('many-eyed Argus'). Mercury was sent by Jupiter to kill Argus, which he did, after piping him to sleep. (Ovid, 'Metamorphoses').

This is among Loth's earliest Venetian works. The darkened sky as Mercury begins to pipe makes it a dramatic and sinister depiction of the subject.

Key facts

Artist
Artist dates
1632 - 1698
Full title
Mercury piping to Argus
Date made
1655-60
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
116.9 x 99.7 cm
Acquisition credit
Presented by A.G.H. Ward, through The Art Fund, 1920
Inventory number
NG3571
Location in Gallery