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Mercury Deep Dive

In Rome, the Loves of the Gods staged by the Carraccis on the vault of the Galleria Farnese, in the palace of the same name, between 1597 and 1606-1607, are divided into thirteen narrative scenes – in addition to the stories contained in the fake bronze medallions. 

In the fresco of Mercury and Paris, while the shepherd is sitting under a tree in the company of his dog, Mercury swoops down from above and gives him the golden apple that the Trojan prince will use in the famous judgment that takes his name from him. 

The foreshortening with which Mercury is depicted brings to mind some examples of Tintoretto, such as the Miracle of San Marco. This figure at the same time mentions the Raphaelesque Mercury of the Loggia of Psyche: it does not seem accidental, in fact, that Hannibal, as in the previous one of the Farnesina, placed a trumpet in the hand of the messenger of the gods and not the usual caduceus. According to Giovanni Pietro Bellori, the trumpet underlines that the current event – the delivery of the golden apple to Paris – will follow the war. 

Due to the context for which this representation was made, the trumpet of the messenger of the gods could allude to the announcement of the Farnese-Aldobrandini wedding. As Bellori already noted at the time, in portraying Paris’s dog, Annibale gives a conspicuous essay of skill, perhaps mindful of the examples of Parmigianino, an artist skilled in depicting animals.

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