Jan 12, 2009

Hercules and Cacus

Hercules and Cacus


Hendrick Goltzius

(Dutch, 1558–1617)

Chiaroscuro woodcut (in black, green, and yellow)

Support: Cream(3) laid paper

Sheet: 42.8 x 33.9 cm (16 7/8 x 13 3/8 in.); Image: 41 x 33.2 cm (16 1/8 x 13 1/16 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1975.60

Catalogue raisonné: Hollstein 373 (VIII.122)

State: IV/IV



This chiaroscuro woodcut portrays Hercules’s heroic battle against Cacus, a murderous, flame-breathing giant. Cacus has fallen onto the bones of his victims. As a last defense, he blows fire at Hercules, who heaves his club overhead to strike a deadly blow. Goltzius portrayed the lead-up to the fight in the background, where Hercules rolls away a boulder at the cavern’s entrance, setting free a small herd of cows that Cacus had stolen. The vivid color combination of yellow and olive green helps energize this dramatic moment.

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