Embracing Couple (Mercury and Lara?)

Object Details

Title:

Embracing Couple (Mercury and Lara?)

Artist/Maker(s):

Jan Harmensz. Muller (Dutch, 1571 - 1628)

Culture:

Dutch

Date:

1588 - about 1594

Medium:

Black chalk, pen and brown ink, brush with brown wash, heightened with white gouache, on light brown paper

Dimensions:

18.7 x 21.7 cm (7 3/8 x 8 9/16 in.)

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Who is this wildly embracing naked couple? Seated on a large stone beneath a tree in the wilderness, they wrap themselves in each other's arms in a fervent kiss. The helmet in the right corner suggests to some scholars that Jan Harmensz. Muller meant to depict the gods Mars and Venus. But the god Mercury was also traditionally depicted wearing a helmet, so other scholars now believe that the figures may represent Mercury and the nymph Lara. In fact, the scene closely resembles a print that Muller engraved of Mercury and Lara.

Muller's sure yet delicate contours define both god and nymph with a few simple strokes. Strong pen lines define the outlines of their bodies, while quick flicks of ink suggest the dimpled curves on stomachs, buttocks, and thighs. White bodycolor not only adds highlights to the figures but also gives their hair texture and depth. Broad, looping strokes and areas of wash merely suggest the surrounding landscape. Scholars believe that the low level of finish suggests that Muller was still working out his ideas for the print that would later follow.

Exhibitions
The Power of Myth: European Mythological Drawings of the 15th through the 19th Century (October 12 to December 26, 1993)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), October 12 to December 26, 1993, (Cat.)
Dutch Drawings of the 16th and 17th Centuries (August 16 to October 23, 1994)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), August 16 to October 23, 1994, (Cat.)
The Body Beautiful: Artists Draw the Nude (1440 - 1880) (December 14, 1999 to February 27, 2000)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), December 14, 1999 to February 27, 2000, (Cat.)
Drawing the Classical Figure (December 23, 2008 to March 8, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), December 23, 2008 to March 8, 2009, (Cat.)
The Secret Life of Drawings (November 23, 2010 to February 13, 2011)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), November 23, 2010 to February 13, 2011, (Cat.)
Disegno: Drawing in Europe 1520-1600 (November 13, 2012 to February 3, 2013)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), November 13, 2012 to February 3, 2013, (Cat.)