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Mercury and Herse

Mercury and Herse, c. 1710

Gerard Hoet
Dutch, 1648-1733
Oil on copper
22-3/4 x 27-1/4 in. (57.8 x 69.2 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

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This finely detailed mythological scene narrates the story of Mercury and Herse, an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in which the Greek god, identified by his winged feet, helmet and caduceus, spies three sisters returning from the festival of Minerva and falls in love with Herse, the most beautiful of the three. Herse's sister Aglauros will become envious of Mercury's infatuation with Herse and will attempt to intervene, a rash decision that ends with Mercury turning her to stone. Hoet has chosen to depict the moment at which Mercury, circling overhead, first catches sight of Herse, a graceful maiden in classical garb at the center of the composition.

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