(b. 1688, Paris, d. 1737, Paris)
The Apotheosis of Hercules1736
Oil on canvas
Musée National du Château, Versailles
The picture shows a detail from the ceiling of the Salon d'Hercule.
The figure of Hercules played an important role in the iconography of 17th-18th-century France. The French accepted the legend that the Trojan Hercules had been the tenth king of the Gaul. A Gallic Hercules (who was also the god of eloquence) was celebrated in honour of François I. Furthermore, Henri IV and Louis XIII lent their features to the hero. Charles Le Brun went on to specialize in images of Hercules. He decorated with these images the ceiling of the Salon d'Hercule at the of the château of Vaux-le-Vicomte in honour of the wealthy finance minister Nicolas Fouquet.
At Versailles the Salon d'Hercule was built on the site of a former chapel in 1733. Lemoyne was commissioned here to paint an Italian-style ceiling depicting The Apotheosis of Hercules, complete with billowing clouds, stylistically rather atypical of the French school.