HerculesHercules is a figure derived from Greek mythology who is usually depicted as a man of great physical strength and courage. He is famed for his Twelve Labours, in which he triumphed over various forces of evil. He was not a god but a hero who was deified, that is, accorded divine status.
One of the Labours involved his overcoming the Hydra, a many-headed snake-like monster. This event is depicted in the lower part of a design by Giaquinto for the 'Apotheosis of the Spanish(?) Monarchy(?)', and in sculptural form on the fountain in the foreground of van Delen's 'Architectural Fantasy'. Another story tells of the infant Hercules killing two snakes. Juno was hostile to the child because he was the offspring of her husband Jupiter and a mortal lover, Alcmene, tried to kill him with serpents but, as can be seen in the Master of the Mansi Magdalen's 'Judith and the Infant Hercules', Hercules succeeded in killing the snakes.
The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN