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Hercules fighting with Antaeus
Zurbarán, Francisco de
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Zurbarán, Francisco de

Fuente de Cantos, Badajoz (Spain), 1598 - Madrid (Spain), 1664

Zurbarán, Francisco de See author's file

Hercules fighting with Antaeus

1634. Oil on canvas.
Room 009A

Hercules puts the North-African giant to death in yet another demonstration of his capacity to combine cleverness and strength. The creature’s mother was Gaea, goddess of the Earth, who doubled his strength every time he was knocked down, requiring Hercules to break his contact with the ground in order to kill him. Juan Pérez de Moya wrote: Noticing Anthaeus’s trickery, Hercules lifted him in the air and squeezed him so powerfully between his arms that he died. Such was Hercules’s victory in this fight. And he added a moral that could explain its inclusion in the series: Hercules signifies the virtuous man who seeks to overcome his carnal desires, with which he engages in mighty combat on a daily basis. Covetousness or carnal desire is said to be born of the earth, and thus embodied by Anthaeus, because, as the Apostle said, such greed is not born of the mind but rather, of the flesh. This statement is consistent with the Marquis of Villena’s observation a century earlier that Anthaeus represents man’s fondness for carnal vice, which is therefore against God. Hercules and those who, like him, put an end to this carnal desire free themselves of such tyrannical and vicious servitude that robs its subjects of body and mind, reason and zeal, by not allowing virtuous customs. This episode has more recently been related to Philip IV’s virtues as a strong and astute ruler who managed to put an end to all his enemies, no matter how powerful. In his conception of this canvas, the painter drew on a print on the same subject by Hans Sebald Beham, which includes the same rocky landscape. In the painting, however, Beham’s brightly lit background becomes a dark cavern, much like the backgrounds of all the other works in this group. This is generally considered one of the least successful paintings from this series, and it has been suggested that Zurbarán’s workshop participated in it, although the master most certainly painted Hercules’s head, which has the same physiognomy and ironic, skeptical expression as in the episode where he shifts the course of the Alpheus River (P1248). There are certainly some problems in the conception of Anthaeus, although they would have been partially corrected by its location in the Hall of Realms, some three meters about the ground. We should keep in mind, however, that the placement of the figures posed some problems to the artist, as the subject imposes a vertical presentation of the two giants, while the series’ overall conception is horizontal, with the hero’s figure in the foreground, and always at the same scale. This left little room for Athaeus, crowding him into the upper part of the canvas, and that almost certainly kept Zurbarán from concluding his arm and left hand.

Ruiz Gómez, Leticia, En El Palacio del Rey Planeta, Úbeda de los Cobos, A. (ed), Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2005, p.161


Technical data

Inventory number
Zurbarán, Francisco de
Hercules fighting with Antaeus
Height: 136 cm; Width: 153 cm
Serie Trabajos de Hércules, Salón de Reinos, Palacio del Buen Retiro
Royal Collection (Buen Retiro Palace, Madrid, 1701, no. 257; Buen Retiro Palace, 1794, no. 528)

Bibliography +

Ponz, Antonio, Viage de España. Vol. I, VI, Joachin Ibarra, Madrid, 1776, pp. 130.

Inventario Real Palacio del Buen Retiro, Madrid, 1794, pp. 16001(nº528).

Catálogo oficial ilustrado de la exposición de las obras de, J. Lacoste, Madrid, 1905.

Soria, Martin S., The Painting of Zurbaran, Phaidon, Londres, 1955, pp. 156/ lám.69.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Inventarios reales: testamentaria del Rey Carlos II : 1701-1, Museo del PradoPatronato Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1975, pp. nº257.

La obra pictorica completa de Zurbarán, Noguer, Barcelona, 1976, pp. 97.

Gudiol, J.; Gállego, J., Zurbarán: 1598-1664, Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona, 1976, pp. 32,33/ lám.109.

López Torrijos, Rosa, La mitología en la pintura española del siglo XVII, Editorial de la Universidad Complutense, Madrid, 1982, pp. 369.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 789.

López Torrijos, Rosa, La mitología en la pintura española del Siglo de Oro, Cátedra, Madrid, 1985, pp. 139-146.

Barghahn, Barbara Von, Philip IV and the Golden House of the Buen Retiro in the Tradition of Caesar, Garland PublishingInc., Nueva York, 1986, pp. 227.

Fernandez Miranda y Lozana, Fernando, Inventarios Reales Carlos III 1789-1790, Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid, 1988, pp. 297.

Guinard, Paul., Zurbarán et les peintres espagnols de la vie monastique /, Les Editions du Temps, París, 1988, pp. 46-47.

Brown, Jonathan, La Edad de Oro de la pintura en España, Nerea, Madrid, 1990, pp. 167/ lám.147.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990.

Caturla, Maria Luisa, Francisco de Zurbarán, Wildenstein Institute, París, 1994, pp. 114.

Anes, Gonzalo, Las colecciones reales y la fundación del Museo del Prado, Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1996, pp. 205,206.

Brown, Jonathan, Painting in Spain 1500-1700, Yale University Press, Yale, 1998, pp. 136/ lám.177.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Velázquez, Rubens, Lorrain: Malerei am Hof Philipps IV, Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deu, Bonn, 1999, pp. 200.

Elliot J.H., Historia y mito en el Salón de Reinos. En Historias inmortales, Barcelona, 2003, pp. 211-228.

Brown, Jonathan, Un palacio para el rey: el Buen Retiro y la corte de Felipe de Felipe IV, Taurus, Madrid, 2003.

Ruiz Gómez, Leticia, En El Palacio del Rey Planeta, Úbeda de los Cobos, A. (ed), Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2005, pp. 161.

Simal, Mercedes, El palacio de Buen Retiro y sus colecciones durante la Guerra de la Independencia. Antecedentes y consecuencias, Jornadas de Arte (14ª. 2008. Madrid) Arte en tiempos de guerra, 2009, pp. 445-455.

Delenda, Odile, Francisco de Zurbarán, 1598 - 1664: catálogo razonado y crítico, Fundación Arte Hispánico, 2009, pp. 286.

Cano, Ignacio, 'Zurbarán (1598-1664)' En:, Zurbarán (1598-1664), Fondazione Ferrara Arte - Centre dex Beaux Arts de Bruxelles, Ferrara, 2013, pp. 16-35 [29].

Finaldi, Gabriele, 'Zurbarán, il 'Caravaggio spagnolo' e la pittura italiana' En:, Zurbarán (1598-1664), Fondazione Ferrara Arte - Centre dex Beaux Arts de Bruxelles, Ferrara, 2013, pp. 48-59 [53].

Cano, Ignacio, 'Zurbarán (1598-1664)' En:, Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664), Bozar Books - Fonds Mercator, Bruselas, 2014, pp. 10-29 [20].

Delenda, Odile, 'Vida y Obra de Francisco de Zurbarán 1598-1664' En:, Zurbarán : una nueva mirada, Fundación Colección Thyssen Bornemisza, Madrid, 2015, pp. 15-29 [22].

Other inventories +

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos II, Buen Retiro, 1701-1703. Núm. [257].
[257] Ottra Pinttura del mismo tamaño [siete cuartas de largo y vara y media de alto] y marco [dorado] y auttor [ ] de la Lucha de Hercules y antteo tasada en Veintte y cinco doblones ... 1500

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 1127.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 1246.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 1246.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 293.
Zurbaran. / 293. Hércules luchando con Anteo. / Alto 4 pies, 10 pulg, 6 lin; ancho 5 pies, 6 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 293.

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Buen Retiro, 1794. Núm. 528.
Otra [pintura], igual a la anterior [Escuela de Lanfranco ... de 7 quartas de alrgo y vara y media de alto] con la lucha de Hercules y Anteo...1000

Exhibitions +

El palacio del Rey Planeta. Felipe IV y el Buen Retiro
06.07.2005 - 30.10.2005

Velázquez, Rubens, Claudio de Lorena y la pintura en la corte de Felipe IV
07.10.1999 - 23.01.2000

Location +

Room 009A (On Display)

Update date: 23-08-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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