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(Italian, c. 1560–1609)
Black chalk heightened with white, squared in black chalk on right, incised (edges of figure)
Support: Blue paper (faded to brown-green), laid down on beige(1) laid paper, perimeter mounted to tertiary support of white Japanese paper
Sheet: 35.5 x 52.4 cm (14 x 20 5/8 in.); Secondary Support: 36.6 x 53.3 cm (14 7/16 x 21 in.); Tertiary Support: 38.3 x 55 cm (15 1/16 x 21 5/8 in.)
Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 1997.52.a
The squares drawn lightly over this composition suggest that it was used to transfer the design to another surface such as a full-scale cartoon.
To atone for the crime of killing his family, the Greek hero Hercules was required to perform twelve labors. In this final study for a fresco of this subject commissioned by Cardinal Odoardo Farnese for the ceiling of his study in his family’s Roman palace, Hercules rests, surrounded by evidence of his toil: the head of the Erymanthian boar he captured, the three golden apples of the Hesperides, and the hide of the Nemean lion on which he sits. The hero’s pose and exaggerated musculature are a result of the artist’s intense study of ancient models, and emulate specific antique sculptures depicting river gods in the Farnese collection. Carracci also worked with full knowledge of Michelangelo’s frescoes on the Sistine Chapel ceiling (1508-10), and the pose of Hercules may have been inspired by the reclining figure of Adam in Michelangelo's Creation of Adam scene.
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