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Tuesday 1 February 2022

Paul Edme Le Rat’s etching with hand-colouring, “L'Argiphonte”, 1881 after Gustave Léon Antoine Marie Popelin

Paul Edme Le Rat (aka Paul Edmunde Le Rat; Paul Edme Lerat) (1842/49–1892)

“L'Argiphonte” (aka “The Slayer of Argus”), 1881, after Gustave Léon Antoine Marie Popelin’s (1859–1936) painting exhibited in the Salon of 1881. The etching was initially published in 1881 in “L'Art” (volume XXVII, page 95) and printed by Alfred Salmon (fl.1863-1894). This impression (before colouring) was published in 1888 by George Barrie in Philadelphia as plate 45 (XLV) to M K Halévy’s “L’Eau-Forte”, page 71.


The portrayed scene shows the mythological god Hermes (aka Mercury; Argeiphontes; L'Argiphonte) holding aloft the head of Argus who he has just beheaded with a sickle. For those who may be wondering about the story leading up to this rather dreadful scene, the sequence of events is as complicated as it is fascinating. Let me try to explain …

Hermes was sent by the Zeus—the king of the gods—to slay Argus—a herdsman nicknamed, Argus Panoptes (transl. “all seeing”), because he was literally covered with eyes. The reason for this murder assignment was because Zeus’ wife, Hera, had given Argus the responsibility of guarding a very beautiful black and white heifer named “Lo.”

This is where the story has an incredibly interesting twist.

Lo was not just any cow, she was actually Zeus’ true love cleverly disguised by Zeus as a heifer so that Hera wouldn’t find out about his sexual proclivity for doe-eyed lovelies. Of course, Hera knew about Zeus’ strong desire for this particular heifer and this is why she gave Argus, the many-eyed herdsman, the job of preventing Zeus from expressing his deep admiration for Lo.

The way that Hermes kills Argus is devilishly simple: Hermes pretends that he too is a herdsman like Argus—hence his lightweight skimpy outfit—and bores lonely Argus with so many tiring stories that all of Argus’ eyes went to sleep. At that moment Hermes lopped off Argus’ head with his handy sickle. Needless to say Hera was not impressed and extracts all of Argus’ eyes and places them in a passing peacock’s tail.


Etching on cream wove paper, hand-coloured in watercolour and backed with a support sheet.

Size: (sheet) 37.2 x 23.3 cm; (image borderline) 26.4 x 15.3 cm.

Lettered in plate above the image borderline: (centre) “Planche XLV.”

Beraldi 1; IFF 64

Condition: a strong and well-printed impression with wide margins laid onto a sheet of archival (millennium quality) washi paper. Note that he platemark is only faintly visible and has been thoroughly flattened in the backing process. The image has been coloured with artists-quality watercolour in 2022.

I am selling this graphically strong, hand-coloured, etching showing the mythological god Hermes holding in triumph the severed head of Argus, for AU$600 in total (currently US$428.27/EUR379.67/GBP316.61 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world, but not (of course) any import duties/taxes imposed by some countries.

If you are interested in purchasing this eye-catching amalgam of etching and watercolour, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold 

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