(b. 1562, Haarlem, d. 1638, Haarlem)

The Labours of Hercules

Oil on oak panel, 48 x 34 cm
Private collection

In the present painting, the artist has depicted Hercules, the son of Zeus and the mortal woman Alcmene, gesturing towards the heavens while standing amidst the bodies of several of the great creatures that he has slain or captured as part of his twelve labours. These bodies are those of the Nemean Lion, the Erymanthian Boar, and the Lernaean Hydra.

The painting is a study of the idealised male nude, epitomised by this demi-god. Hercules's powerful nude body, seen from behind, entirely dominates the canvas. The image of the male nude from behind is a recurring motif throughout Cornelis van Haarlem's paintings and drawings.