Rosa excelled in dramatic and mysterious compositions. This superb painting illustrates the story of “Jason and the Golden Fleece,” which is recounted in the Latin poet Ovid’s celebrated work the Metamorphoses. Rosa depicts the Greco-Roman mythical hero using the magic herbs the sorceress Medea gave him to charm the dragon guarding the object of his quest, the golden fleece of a legendary ram, a talisman of immortality. Jason’s pose heightens the aura of mystery, focused as the composition is on the powerful, diagonal confrontation of the two figures.
The dark, often morbid character of Rosa’s art reflects its Neapolitan origins and the influence of Ribera in particular. The mingling of his study of antiquity and Baroque figure composition in Rome with the seventeenth-century Florentine taste for the bizarre resulted in an utterly unique vision.