The J. Paul Getty Museum

Mercury and Argus and Perseus and Medusa

Object Details


Mercury and Argus and Perseus and Medusa


Produced in the Doccia Porcelain Factory (Italian, about 1735 - 1896)
After models by Giovanni Battista Foggini (Italian, 1652 - 1725)
Probably made by Gaspero Bruschi (Italian, 1701 - 1780)
Painted in the shop of Johann Karl Wendelin Anreiter von Zirnfeld (Austrian, active 1739 - 1745)




Doccia (near Florence), Italy (Place Created)


about 1750


Hard-paste porcelain, polychrome enamel decoration, gilding

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Object Description

Two brightly colored figural groups from the Ginori Porcelain factory depict violent episodes from the Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses. Modeled in porcelain, Jupiter's messenger Mercury attacks Argus on one pedestal, while Perseus kills Medusa on another. The factory reused Giovanni Battista Foggini's bronze casting molds, replicating the Baroque sculptor's muscular figures, wind-blown dramatic draperies, and dynamic compositions. Yet the painting, using jewel-like yellow, purple, blue, and pink pigments and gilding, brings out a spirited delicacy more typical of the Rococo style of the mid-1700s. As a result, Medusa, whose horrifying look was reputed to turn men to stone, is merely a rather startlingly rosy-cheeked woman with snakes for hair, while Argus, the hundred-eyed giant who tormented Jupiter's lover Io, is a handsome, muscled warrior.

Each figural group is made from ten separate sections, each of which was press-molded and fired before being joined together. The figures are joined to Rococo bases with candle sockets, indicating that they were meant to function as part of a candelabrum. The two lively groups would have been a dramatic centerpiece for a dinner-table setting.

The group was painted in the shop of Johann Karl Wendelin Anreiter von Zirnfeld.

Princely Patrons and Enlightened Entrepreneurs (November 6, 2005 to April 1, 2006)
  • Liechtenstein Museum (Vienna), November 6, 2005 to January 29, 2006