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The Great Hercules
Goltzius, Heindrick -Engraver-
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Goltzius, Heindrick

Bracht-am-Niederrhein, 1558 - Haarlem, 1617

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The Great Hercules

1589. Burin on laid paper.
Not on display

Wearing the hide of the lion of Nemea, Hercules holds a club in his left hand and, in his right, the horn he tore off river god Achelous’s head when the latter adopted the form of a bull to fight him. That battle is visible in the middle ground to the left, while, in the background, the Nereids have filled the horn with flowers and fruit, transforming it into a cornucopia. At the right, Hercules lifts Anteus off the ground to strip him of the strength he drew from his contact with his mother, the Earth. Technically, this work is a marvel of the art of engraving. The figure of Hercules is pure artifice: all of his muscles are tensed at the same time, which is impossible, and he is exaggeratedly bulbous. This print has been interpreted politically as an allegory of the Netherlands’ revolt against the Spanish but it could also be viewed as a demonstration of Goltzius’s technique and inventiveness, reflecting his aspiration to attain international fame and fortune. In fact, he took copies of this print with him when traveling to Germany and Italy in 1590-91. This print from the Museo del Prado was part of an album belonging to the VII Marquis of El Carpio, don Gaspar de Haro y Guzmán (1629-1687), and is mentioned in the inventory that his secretary, Juan Vélez de León, carried out in Madrid in 1687: N 12. Un altro [album] dell`istessagrandezza con copertacremese con figure intagliate da Enrico Golzio. The album’s original red-leather binding with gold adornments is also at the Museo del Prado and bears the title Opere del Golzio e del Bloemart on its spine. The frontispiece has the album’s title as well as the observation that the works were assembled by painter Giuseppe Ghezzi (1634-1721): OPERE / DI / ARRIGO GOLZIO / ET / ABRAMO BLOEMART / RACCOLTE / PER IL SUO STUDIO / DA / GIUSEPPE GHEZZ.. Ghezzi played a decisive role in shaping the Marquis of El Carpio’s collections.

Technical data

Inventory number
Goltzius, Heindrick -Engraver-
The Great Hercules
Laid paper
Height: 643 mm; Width: 447 mm; Height of the plate mark: 573 mm; Width of the plate mark: 409 mm
VII Marquis of El Carpio’s collections; Margarita de Dios Cano; Acquired 2015.

Bibliography +

Strauss, Walter L., Hendrik Goltzius 1558-1617. The Complete Engravings and Wood..., Abaris Books, 1977, pp. Vol. II, nº 283, p. 498.

Holman, Beth L., ''Goltzius' Great Hercules: mythology, art and politics'', en, Goltzius-Studies : Hendrick Goltzius(1558-1617), Waanders, Zwolle, 1993, pp. 397-412.

Filedt Kok, Jan Piet, ''Hendrick Goltzius - Engraver, Desginer and Publisher 1582-1600'', en, Goltzius-Studies : Hendrick Goltzius(1558-1617), Waanders Uitgevers, 1993, pp. 173, ill. 86.

Goddard, Stephen H. y Ganz, James A., Goltzius & The Third Dimension, Williamstown, Ma, 2001, pp. 14, il. 7; 78, nº 26.

Orenstein, Nadine, ''The Great Hercules, 1589'', en, Huigen Leeflang y Ger Luitjen (eds.), ''Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617). Drawings, Prints and Paintings'', Waanders, Zwolle, 2003, pp. 106-108.

Leesberg, Marjolein (comp.) y Leeflang, Huigen (ed.), Hendrick Goltzius. Part I. The new Hollstein Dutch & Flemish etchings, engravings and w..., Sound & Vision Publishers, 2012, pp. 257-258, nº 156.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Memoria de actividades 2015, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2016, pp. 126-128.

Filigree +

Motive: Escudo coronado con dos osos enfrentados, y en el centro, una cruz y letras (?) sobre tres círculos en pirámide

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2898.

Inscriptions +

HGoltzius Invent. et sculpt.
Lettered in the plate. Front, lower left corner

Aº 1589
Lettered in the plate. Front, lower left corner

HGoltzius Invent. et sculpt. Aº 1589 // Amphitryoniad[a]e virtus terraq[ue] mariq[ue] / Quem latet? et tanti s[a]eva noverca mali? // Ille tot expositus monstris, Hydraq[ue] tricopor / Geryon atq[ue] tibi, flammiuomq[ue] Caco. // Ille hîc Ant[a]eum, et superat te Acheloo bicornem; / Naiades at truncum fruge ferace beant.
Lettered in the plate. Front, lower area

Inscribed in pen and brown ink. Back, lower left corner

In pen and gray ink. Back, Upper central area

Update date: 30-09-2022 | Registry created on 01-09-2015

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