Mercury and Aglauros
Carel Fabritius (Dutch, 1622–1654)
72.4 x 91.1 cm (28 1/2 x 35 7/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Oil on canvas
Art of the Netherlands in the 17th Century Gallery (Gallery 242)
In the Roman myth related in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Aglauros was poisoned with jealousy by the goddess Minerva and refused to take Mercury to her sister Herse, with whom the god had fallen in love. When Aglauros rejected Mercury’s offer of gold, the moment seen here, he turned her into stone. Fabritius was a student of Rembrandt’s, and the intimate lighting and very human portrayal of the ancient story reflect his teacher. At some point the false signature “Rembrandt 1652” was added on the lower left step.
1776, Antoine Joseph Eslacs du Bouquet, marquis d'Arcambal (b. 1727 - d. 1789), Paris; February 22, 1776, Marquis d'Arcambal sale, Hôtel d'Aligre, Paris, lot 11a, sold to Jacques Langlier (dealer). February 23, 1778, Armand-Frédéric-Ernest Nogaret and others sale, Hôtel d'Aligre, Paris, lot 57, sold to Pierre-François Basan (b. 1723 - d. 1797), Paris [see note 1]. 1851, sold by a merchant on the rue Saint Georges, Paris [see note 2]. 1854, acquired in Paris by Francis Brooks (b. 1824 - d. 1891), Boston [see note 3]; 1891, by inheritance to Louise Winsor (Mrs. Francis) Brooks (b. 1835 - d. 1892), Boston; 1903, sold by the estate of Mrs. Francis Brooks to the MFA for $27,500. (Accession Date: July 1, 1903) NOTES:  For information on these eighteenth-century sales, see Sophie Raux, "Carel Fabritius in eighteenth-century Paris," Burlington Magazine, February 2012, pp. 103-106. The painting was attributed in these sales to Johann Liss and was accompanied by a pendant representing Mercury and Io.  E. Durand-Gréville, "La Peinture aux États-Unis," Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 36, no. 1 (1887), p. 66, according to whom it was offered with a group of pictures.  According to the will of Francis Brooks. When it was in his possession, it was attributed to Rembrandt (as it was falsely signed, "Rembrandt, 1652") and was thought to represent Danae, or the "Shower of Gold." Mr. Brooks wrote: "This picture I had for months in Dresden, in the Gallery," although the Gemäldegalerie, Dresden, was unable to confirm that it had ever been on loan there (letter to the MFA, March 2, 1939).
Martha Ann Edwards Fund