Salvator Rosa, Jason and the Dragon, an etching

Italy, AD 1663-64

The legendary hero who captured the Golden Fleece

In this signed etching, Jason pours the magic potion given to him by Medea over the dragon guarding the Golden Fleece. Overcome with drowsiness, the creature rolls onto its side, enabling Jason to carry off both his treasure and Medea as his bride. The story is related by Ovid in the Metamorphoses.

This etching of Jason stepping over the dragon bursts with violent energy. Diagonal lines spiral out from the centre, from the dragon's wing and tail, lashing about in opposite directions, and Jason's sword, thrust down to the left while his cloak billows up on our right. An expression of fierce triumph lights up Jason's face under the shadow of his helmet.

Rosa (1615-73) worked in Naples, Florence and Rome. He achieved great success with his landscape paintings of wild and mountainous scenery populated with travellers and bandits. His one hundred or so etchings, which have always been admired for their inventive figure groupings, reflect his desire to be known as more than a landscape painter. They are often executed with the panache visible here. A dramatic preparatory drawing in pen and wash survives for this composition, which has been reversed by the printing process. Rosa's early Self-portrait (National Gallery, London) suggests his fiery and ambitious temperament, which is documented by his early biographers. He also wrote a number of plays which take as their subject Italian low-life.

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More information


R.W. Wallace, The etchings of Salvator Rosa (Princeton University Press, 1979)

J. Scott, Salvator Rosa, his life and ti (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1995)

S.W. Reed and R. Wallace, Italian etchers of the Renaiss (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1989)


Height: 339.000 mm
Width: 217.000 mm

Museum number

PD W7-97 (Bartsch XX. 275. 18)



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