Description The exploits of the ancient hero Hercules were valued as exemplifying great physical strength and virtuous purpose combined with the occasional human failing. They were popular at the French court, because the royal family claimed the hero as an ancestor. Of Hercules's Twelve Labors, undertaken as penance after he killed his children in a fit of madness, the most often depicted was his triumph over the Libyan giant Antaeus, who drew his stupendous strength from contact with his mother, the earth-goddess Gaea. Here, in a composition based on an engraving after a drawing attributed to Raphael, Hercules, wearing a lion's skin, lifts the giant off the ground and crushes him. The crudely drawn beasts in the corners represent the Lernaean Hydra, the Cretan Bull, the three-headed dog Cerberus, and the Nemean Lion that Hercules also overcame in his Labors.
Provenance Léon Decloux [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Sale, Paris, April 27-8, 1891; Dr. Emile Allain, Paris [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Seligmann Brothers, Paris [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Henry Walters, Baltimore, May 16, 1906, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, 1906
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