As part of an ongoing effort to conserve key artworks in the Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery’s collection, Juno and Argus, Guardian of the Jupitern Herds was restored earlier this year and welcomed back for use in teaching and exhibitions.
This seventeenth-century Flemish painting is of the School of Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678), who was a student of Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640). The artist has depicted a scene from the story of Jupiter and Io in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Io, Jupiter’s young, mortal lover, was turned into a beautiful white cow to save her from his jealous wife, Juno. Not fooled by her husband’s trick, Juno captured Io that she might never be turned back into a woman again. Juno found a hundred-eyed man, Argus, who in our painting holds Io by the horn, to watch over the cow day and night to prevent Jupiter from stealing her. The peacocks atop Juno’s golden stair foreshadow the end of the fable, when Argus is lured into sleep and slain by Mercury, and Juno plucks out his hundred eyes to adorn the feathers of her beloved bird.
This fable was painted by both Rubens and Jordaens, and their influence on the artist of our painting is clear in both choice of subject matter and the billowy, baroque handling of Juno’s clothing and Argus’s flesh. The conservation treatment was performed by Cynthia Stow of Cumberland Art Conservation, Nashville. The painting was cleaned, inpainted where there were losses, and secured with archival backing.
Funds for conservation of this and other artworks in the Fine Arts Gallery’s collection were provided by the Kathryn and Margaret Millspaugh Fund for Art Conservation.
This sixteenth-century painting of Saint Sebastian by Liberale da Verona (Italian, 1445-1525/1529), part of the Samuel H. Kress Study Collection at Vanderbilt, is shown snugly packed for its upcoming journey to the Conservation Center at NYU’s Institute for Fine Arts.—Margaret Walker, art curator assistant, Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery