(b. 1484/85, Schwäbisch-Gmünd, 1545, Strassburg)

Mucius Scaevola

Lime wood, 98 x 68 cm
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

Mucius Scaevola (Livy 2:12-13) was a hero of Roman legend. When the Etruscan forces, led by Lars Porsena, king of Clusium, were besieging Rome, a young Roman nobleman, Caius Mucius, succeeded in penetrating the enemy lines in disguise, meaning to kill Porsena. By mistake he killed the king's secretary who was sitting beside him. Mucius was seized but, to show how cheaply he held his life, thrust his right hand into the flames of an altar fire and let it burn. Porsena, amazed by his endurance, set him free. He was thereafter called Scaevola, meaning 'left-handed'.

In painting, of the Renaissance and later, Mucius stands for the virtues of patience and constancy. His sacrifice was also held to be a prefiguration of Christ's sacrifice.