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Netherlandish artist Jan Muller (1571–1628) was among the most imaginative and refined of a group of engravers that flourished between Haarlem and the imperial court at Prague around the turn of the 16th century. The National Gallery of Art has acquired Muller’s Mercury Abducting Psyche (c. 1597), a series of three engravings based on a 1593 sculpture of the same name by Adriaen de Vries (c. 1556–1626).

In these prints, Muller rendered the statue from three different points of view. By translating a life-size marble of erotic subject and complicated torsion into black-and-white line work of remarkably abstract organization and exhaustive execution, the series demonstrates his extraordinary virtuosity. The series is a late and exceptional example in the paragone—the Renaissance argument about the relative merits of artistic media (usually sculpture and painting) and resulting attempts to demonstrate the superiority of one over another. Not only does this series epitomize the last flourishing of mannerism, but it also asserts the representational potential and high status of engraving.


on pedestal at bottom, in plate: IVSSV RHVDOLPHI .II. CAESARIS AVGVSTI, / ADRIANVS DE VRIES HAGIENSIS FACIEBAT PRAGAE. / OPVS ALTITVDINIS PEDVM OCTO. EX AERE . 1593. / In gratiam D: Adriani de Vries, Cognati sui chariss:mi / sculpebat Iohannes Mullerus. / Harman: Muller: excudebat.

Marks and Labels



(sale, Tajan, Paris, 7 April 2006, no. 21); (Hill-Stone, New York); Saul Steinberg, New York; (C. G. Boerner, New York); purchased 2022 by NGA.

Associated Names

Boerner LLC, C.G.


The New Hollstein Dutch & Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, 1450-1700. (The Muller Dynasty, Jan Piet Filedt Kok, author). Rotterdam: Sound & Vision Publishers, 1999: no. 82, iii/iv.

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