Hercules and Cerberus, before 1565
After Rosso Fiorentino's drawing
Etching. 221 x 183 mm
Inventory number: E1859
Herakles (Lat. Hercules) was the result of the affair of Zeus (Lat. Jupiter) with the mortal woman Alcmene. Zeus’ wife Hera (Lat. Juno) hated Hercules, who was a proof of the infidelity of Zeus, and persecuted him throughout his life. When he married a king’s daughter, Megara, Hera inflicted madness on him, making him kill his wife and children. As punishment he had to serve the King of Mycenae, who ordered him to perform twelve dangerous tasks. He fought against Amazons, fetched magical objects from faraway parts of the world, and killed monsters. Hercules was even able to tame the hound of Hell, Kerberos (Lat. Cerberus). How that may have happened is shown in this copperplate print from the 16th century, which is part of Thorvaldsen’s collection of other artists’ prints.
After twelve years with the King of Mycenae Herakles had atoned for his crime and was released from his service. However, he was to have many more adventures, and the many myths about his eventful life tell these stories.