Inkwell and Candlestick with the Infant Hercules Killing the Serpents

c. 1510–20

workshop of Severo da Ravenna

(Italian, c.1496-c.1543)
Overall: 21 x 11 x 13 cm (8 1/4 x 4 5/16 x 5 1/8 in.)
You can copy, modify, and distribute this work, all without asking permission. Learn more about CMA's Open Access Initiative.

Download, Print and Share


In the early 1500s, Padua, a center of strong humanist traditions, encouraged the revival of classicism, and artists took their cues from descriptions in the works of classical authors. Classical small-scale bronzes grew in demand, and in response, the city's bourgeoning foundries produced a varied and extensive supply of small statues. Like many early Paduan bronzes, this work's utilitarian function—used to hold ink and to supply light—is complimented by its ornamental value. The base consists of an eagle claw, cast from life, supporting an equally realistic nautilus shell. Though medieval artists had occasionally used seashells to hold paints, the shell inkwell, whose small size makes it rather impractical to use, was a motif particular to Padua. Perched upon the shell is most likely Hercules, the son of Zeus. Perhaps aided by a staff (now missing) he is poised to strike a serpent, which according to myth was sent by Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus, to kill him. The dramatic opposition of hero and monster enhances the connection to the classical past, further meeting the desires of the educated patrons of Padua.
Inkwell and Candlestick with the Infant Hercules Killing the Serpents

Inkwell and Candlestick with the Infant Hercules Killing the Serpents

c. 1510–20

Severo da Ravenna

(Italian, c.1496-c.1543)
Italy, Ravenna, 16th century

Visually Similar Artworks

ArtLens App

Let the ArtLens App be your guide, featuring an interactive map, every artwork on view, and AR scanning. Keep track of your favorite artworks. Take a guided tour, or create your own. 

Download the App

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance, may not be currently accurate. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

All images and data available through Open Access can be downloaded for free. For images not available through Open Access, a detail image, or any image with a color bar, request a digital file from Image Services.