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Champagne 1600-1682 Rome

Mercure rend à Apollon les boeufs d’Admetus, 1671

Mercure rend à Apollon les boeufs d’Admetus, 1671

Signed, inscribed, and dated, lower left, Claudio/inv. fecit/Roma 1671

Pen and brown ink with gray and brown wash over black chalk, heightened with white

6 ⅝ x 9 ½ inches

17 x 24.2 cm


The Rev. Dr. Henry Wellesley, Oxford (his sale:  London, Sotheby's, 25 June 1866, lot 305)

Paul Cassirer, Amsterdam, 1957

Curtis O. Baer, New Rochelle, New York (Lugt 3366, verso)

Thence by descent

Private collection, New Jersey, since 2005


Cambridge, Fogg Art Museum, The Curtis O. Baer Collection, 1958, cat. no. 39, illustrated

Washington, National Gallery of Art, and elsewhere, Master Drawings from Titian to Picasso:  The Curtis O. Baer Collection, 1985-7, cat. no. 57, illustrated (catalogue by E. M. Zafran)


M. Roethlisberger, Claude Lorrain:  The Paintings, New Haven, 1961, vol. I, pp. 450-51

M. Roethlisberger, Claude Lorrain:  The Drawings, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1968, vol. I, p. 380;  vol. II, no. 1029, illustrated

A. Zwollo, "An Additional Study for Claude's Picture The Arrival of Aeneas at Pallantium," Master Drawings, 1970, vol. VIII, p. 274

The subject of this composition, taken from the Homeric Hymn to Mercury,¹ is rare.  It depicts the dénouementof the story of Mercury's theft of the cattle of Admetus which had been entrusted to his exiled brother, Apollo.  When Apollo discovered the theft, he complained to Jupiter who ordered Mercury to return the animals to Apollo.  In our drawing, from the celebrated collection of Dr. Henry Wellesley's group of 200 sheets by Claude, Mercury is shown making peace with his brother.  To seal this reconciliation Apollo and Mercury exchange gifts, Mercury presenting Apollo with a lyre and receiving from him a golden staff, or, caduceus.  These gifts henceforth became their respective attributes.

A less-finished drawing of this composition, in reverse to the present sheet and dated by Professor Roethlisberger circa 1671,² is in the British Museum.³  Whether Claude intended a painting at this time is difficult to say with certainty.  However, in 1677 he returned to the subject, using our drawing as the basis for a more fully-developed compositional drawing now at the Kupferstichkabinett,  Berlin.⁴  The Berlin drawing served as the definitive compositional drawing for a now-lost painting of 1679, made for one of Claude's greatest patrons, the Abbé Louis d'Anglure, Sieur de Bourlemont (1627-97), recorded by a drawing dated 1678 in the Liber Veritatis at the British Museum.⁵  These later versions of the subject retain the general disposition of the figures, but expand the landscape to include a broad river to the right and a ruined classical temple.

  1. Roethlisberger, op. cit., 1961, vol. I, p. 450.

  2. Roethlisberger, op. cit., 1968, vol. I, p. 380, under cat. no. 1028.

  3. Ibid., p. 380, cat. no. 1028; vol. II, pl. 1028.

  4. Ibid., p. 408, vol. I, cat. no. 1111; vol. II, pl. 1111.

  5. Ibid., p. 408, vol. I, cat. no. 1112; vol. II, pl. 1112.

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