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Oil painting - Hercules and the Nemean lion
  • Hercules and the Nemean lion
    Rubens, Peter Paul, born 1577 - died 1640
  • Enlarge image

Hercules and the Nemean lion

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Date:

    late 18th century-early 19th century (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Rubens, Peter Paul, born 1577 - died 1640 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas laid on panel

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Mrs Duroure

  • Museum number:

    308-1864

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

A nude Hercules in the act of choking the Nemean lion, one of the mythological hero's penitential Twelve Labours, which is raised up on its hindquarters; an open-jawed tiger and a human skull at his feet. Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) was a Flemish painter, draughtsman and diplomat. He was a versatile and influential Baroque artist employed by the rulers of the southern Netherlands as their ambassador and became painter to the courts of Europe. Rubens blended features of the Italian High Renaissance, with which he became acquainted during an extended visit to Italy, with northern realism and a love of landscape. He had a deep knowledge and understanding of Classical art and literature and successfully translated these into vivid images of flesh and blood. 308-1864 appears to be a late 18th or early 19th century reduced copy after Rubens' original, dated ca. 1615, now in a private collection, Brussels. Rubens made a red-chalk drawing for the head and the body of Hercules (Louvre) in Rome in the gardens of the Villa Medici, where he copied the fragment of an ancient relief of the same subject. The composition was engraved in 1801.

Physical description

A nude Hercules in the act of choking the Nemean lion which is raised up on its hindquarters; an open-jawed tiger and a human skull at his feet

Date

late 18th century-early 19th century (painted)

Artist/maker

Rubens, Peter Paul, born 1577 - died 1640 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas laid on panel

Dimensions

Height: 44.5 cm estimate, Width: 39 cm estimate

Object history note

Bequeathed by Mrs Duroure, 1864
The V&Acentral inventory indicates that nos. 305/312-1864 were bequeathed by Mrs Duroure and the annual report of the Science and Art Department describes briefly the individual works.
A hand written note (Kauffmann?) in the Paintings object files reads:
'the Duroure pictures are described in the letter of acceptance g 6.4.1864 as follows:
2 small Dutch pictures- drinking subjects
1 landscape, Roman
1 Rubens, Samson and lion
1 Simon Vouel [sic]
1 Sir Walter Raleigh
2 Landscapes, Waterloo'

Historical significance: 308-1864 appears to be a late 18th or early 19th century copy after Rubens' original, dated ca. 1615. now in a private collection, Brussels (Oil on canvas, 193 x 173 cm). Only in 1970 did the current owner of the autograph work discover that it was the original. Another copy is at Potsdam (Schloss Sanssouci). Rubens made a red-chalk drawing for the head and the body of Hercules, (Louvre, Lugt 1949, n. 1012) in Rome in the gardens of the Villa Medici, where he copied the fragment of an ancient relief of the same subject. The composition may be derived however from Giulio Romano in the Palazzo del Te, Mantua, where Rubens was recorded in 1602-03 and 1604. The composition was engraved in 1801.

Historical context note

History painting, i.e. depictions of non recurring events based on religious, classical, literary or allegorical sources, developed apace in the 17th century in the Netherlands. Artists transformed distant history into contemporary scenes of everyday life, situating classical and biblical scenes in Netherlandish settings with figures in contemporary costume and sometimes even including historicized portraits.

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) was a Flemish painter, draughtsman and diplomat. He was a versatile and influential Baroque artist employed by the rulers of the southern Netherlands as their ambassador and became painter to the courts of Europe. Rubens blended features of the Italian High Renaissance, with which he became acquainted during an extended visit to Italy, with northern realism and a love of landscape. He had a deep knowledge and understanding of Classical art and literature and successfully translated these into vivid images of flesh and blood. He returned to Antwerp from Italy in 1608 on the eve of the Twelve-year Truce with Spain (1609–21).

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'Hercules and the Nemean Lion', after Peter Paul Rubens, late 18th century-early 19th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M. Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, pp. 249-252, cat. no. 310.
M. Jaffé, Rubens: Catalogo completo. (Milan, 1989), p. 203, no. 290.

Production Note

A reduced copy after the painting by Rubens now in a private collection in Brussels

Materials

Oil paint; Canvas; Panel

Techniques

Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Tiger (animal); Lions (animals)

Categories

Paintings

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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