BOUCHER, François
(b. 1703, Paris, d. 1770, Paris)

Hercules and Omphale

Oil on canvas, 90 x74 cm
Pushkin Museum, Moscow

The mythological story depicted in the painting is the following.

For murdering his friend Iphitus in a fit of madness Hercules was sold as a slave to Omphale, queen of Lydia, for three years (Apollodorus 2.6:3). But she soon alleviated his lot by making him her lover. While in her service he grew effeminate, wearing women's clothes and adornments, and spinning yarn.

The subject, portraying one of the hero's errors, inspired Boucher to paint one of the most audaciously erotic and best-executed canvases of the century - an agitated, brilliant composition full of wit and joyous verve, which Boucher would only rarely equal afterward.

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