LEMOYNE, François
(b. 1688, Paris, d. 1737, Paris)

Hercules and Omphale

Oil on canvas, 184 x 149 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

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.

In the usual representation of the story Hercules is seated beside Omphale who is caressing him. The essential feature is the exchange of attributes. She wears his lion's skin and holds the club; he is draped in colourful robes and holds a distaff or spindle. Cupid is present. The subject is absent from classical Greek art, probably because it shows the hero in an unfavourable light, but it is found in Hellenistic times. In Renaissance and particularly Baroque painting it illustrates the idea of woman's domination of man.

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