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Louis de Boullogne, Nessus and Dejanira

Key facts
Full title Nessus and Dejanira
Artist Louis de Boullogne
Artist dates 1654 - 1733
Date made about 1700
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 65.4 × 80.6 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Jeffery Daniels, 1986
Inventory number NG6506
Location Room 33
Collection Main Collection
Nessus and Dejanira
Louis de Boullogne

This painting is based on a story from the Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses. When Hercules arrived at the River Euenus with his bride Dejanira, the centaur Nessus offered to carry her across the water while Hercules swam. Having reached the other side, Nessus attempted to run off with Dejanira, but Hercules shot and fatally wounded him with a poisoned arrow. Vowing not to die unavenged, Nessus gave his blood-soaked tunic to Dejanira and told her that it had the power to revive waning love. Later, Dejanira caused Hercules' death by giving him the poisoned tunic to wear because she feared that he would fall in love with someone else.

Louis de Boullogne was one of the most important decorators of his generation, participating in many of the most prestigious religious and mythological projects of his day. The size of this picture suggests that it may have originally formed part of a decorative series of paintings depicting subjects derived from the Metamorphoses, but this is uncertain.

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