(active mid-17th century)

Hercules and Achelous

c. 1650
Ivory, height 28 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

This ivory statuette depicts the encounter of Hercules with the Achelous. Achelous was a suitor for Deianeira, daughter of Oeneus king of Calydon, but was defeated by Heracles, who wed her himself. When Achelous battled Heracles over the river nymph Deianeira, Achelous turned himself into a serpent and a bull. A puzzling feature of the statuette is the depiction in low relief of the skin and horns of a bull beneath the feet of the two combatants.

Several ivory carvers reached the level of virtuosity seen in this statuette. The artist whose style is closest to this work is the as yet unidentified Master of the Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, named after two ivory reliefs in Vienna and Linz, dated 1655 and 1657, respectively.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.