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The Great Hercules
  • Artist Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558 - 1617)
  • TitleThe Great Hercules
  • Dating 1589
  • Technique/MaterialCopper engraving on paper
  • Dimensions56,1 x 40,3 cm
  • AcquisitionGift of Oscar Quensel, 1911
  • CategoryCopper Engraving
  • Inventory NumberG Q 191/1911
  • Display StatusNot shown in the museum
Signatures etc.
Exhibition History
Well-muscled men were a recurring theme for Hendrick Goltzius, and The Great Hercules must be considered the foremost of them.

There were several reasons for Goltzius to depict Hercules. In this age, the renowned hero of Greek and Roman mythology was often associated with the Dutch struggle for freedom from Spanish rule, which started in 1568. Interpreted in this context, Hercules’ exaggerated muscles can be understood as a way of emphasizing the strength of the Dutch nation.

Furthermore, the huge number of muscles – note the toes – gave Goltzius more leeway to shine as a printmaker. Through the engraved lines he was able to define the form of the muscles with absolute clarity. The Great Hercules is therefore regarded as one of his finest prints.