image herse_rs9690
Image number: RS.9690
Credit: © The Royal Society
Looking for a special gift? Buy a print of this image.

Herse and her sisters with Hermes




William Kent (1684-1748, British), Painter

Object type



height (painting): 4205mm
width (painting): 4205mm


Mythological scene depicting Ovid’s version of the Herse story. A procession of votaries carry wine, food, flowers and a sacrificial white bull to a statue of Athene, in a round temple dias. Herse, to the left as viewed, faces the statue while Hermes (Mercury, who falls in love with her) flies overhead.

Object history

Purchased as part of the contents of Chicheley Hall, 2009.

Ceiling painting on twin canvases above the Great Hall at Chicheley Hall, Buckinghamshire. The work was commissioned for Chicheley Hall by its first owner, Sir John Chester, 4th baronet (1666-1726). William Kent initially described the piece as: “...if you like the subject out of Ovid it is Herse & her sisters a sacrificing to Flora & Mercury a flying when he fell in love with her, there will enter a piece of the Temple.” Kent sent a sketch of the work to Burrell Massingberd on 8 June 1718 and wrote again on 15 November to say that “I am still at work upon Sir John’s ceiling piece which I do upon two large cloths for the convenience of bringing...” The work was complete by December 1718. [“The building of Chicheley Hall”, by Joan D.Tanner, Records of Buckinghamshire, vol.17 part 1, (1961), pp.41–48].

Associated place

<The World>
   > Europe
      > United Kingdom