Skip to main content
Landscape with Mercury and the Dishonest Woodman
Salvator Rosa
/

The story of the honest woodsman – the subject of Rosa’s painting – is taken from Aesop’s Fables, a collection of moral tales from ancient Greece. In the story, the god Mercury takes pity on a woodsman who has accidentally dropped his axe into a river. He retrieves two axes from the water, one gold and one silver; the honest woodsman claims neither as his own, so Mercury gives him both as a reward, as well as his original axe. On hearing this, a dishonest woodsman swears that he too has dropped a tool in the water. Rosa’s painting shows Mercury emerging from the river holding a golden axe, and the woodsman dashing forwards to claim it. The god denied him the axe.

This painting was commissioned in around 1663 by Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna, a major art collector in Rome. During the 1660s, Rosa’s landscapes became increasingly dramatic, with windswept trees, rushing torrents of water and stormy clouds. His paintings of this period are among his most powerfully inventive works.

Key facts
Artist Salvator Rosa
Artist dates 1615 - 1673
Full title Landscape with Mercury and the Dishonest Woodman
Date made about 1663
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 125.7 x 202.1 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1837
Inventory number NG84
Location in Gallery Not on display
Download image
Download low-resolution image

Download a low-resolution copy of this image for personal use.

License this image

License and download a high-resolution image for reproductions up to A3 size from the National Gallery Picture Library.

License image
Download low-resolution image

This image is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons agreement.

Examples of non-commercial use are:

  • Research, private study, or for internal circulation within an educational organisation (such as a school, college or university)
  • Non-profit publications, personal websites, blogs, and social media

The image file is 800 pixels on the longest side.

As a charity, we depend upon the generosity of individuals to ensure the collection continues to engage and inspire. Help keep us free by making a donation today.

Yes, I'd like to donate
Or
Download low-resolution image

You must agree to the Creative Commons terms and conditions to download this image.

Creative Commons Logo