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Classification: Print

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Image of Harpocrates

Harmen Jansz. Muller (aka Jan Harmensz Muller)
Dutch, 1571–1628

Harpocrates

1593

Object Type: Print
Dimensions:
18 3/4 in. x 14 3/4 in. (47.63 cm x 37.47 cm)
Medium and Support: Engraving on paper
Accession Number: 1999.0004.0001

Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Weil, Jr., in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Weil, Sr.


Harpocrates was the Greek god of silence during the Hellenistic age, and in Greek art he was shown as a small child with his finger to his lips. As we do today, the Greeks and Romans of the classical era recognized the finger to the lips gesture as a request for silence. Muller has transformed Harpocrates—the figure is not a child, but an old hag. The inscription on the print: “loqui ignorabit, qui tacere nesciet,” roughly translates the advice “be silent, lest you speak of what you do not know.”

This engraving, and its pendant Chilon (1999.4.2) depict somewhat obscure classical Greek figures. The designs were apparently two of only twenty created by Jan Muller himself, rather than reproductive engravings of the compositions of other artists. Like much of Muller’s work, both were published by Muller’s father Harmen Jansz. Muller (Dutch, about 1540–1617) in Amsterdam.

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