POLLAIUOLO, Antonio del
(b. 1431/32, Firenze, d. 1498, Roma)

Hercules and the Hydra

c. 1475
Tempera on wood, 17 x 12 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

This small panel, the companion-piece to "Hercules and Antaeus", refers to three panels representing the Labours of Hercules which Antonio del Pollaiuolo painted for Lorenzo de' Medici around 1460, lost works we know about only from later versions.

Here too is represented a ferocious fight between the hero, his body tensed into an agile, muscular mass and the legendary multi-headed monster. The outlines are very sharply defined, and the movement of nerves and tendons observed down to the last detail. Antonio del Pollaiuolo worked at time when thorough studies of anatomy were being made, and he therefore renders the human body realistically in its moments of greatest emotional excitement.

The dramatic force of the episode is expressed in the hero's grimace of fatigue and horror, but also his certainty of victory. Behind the proudly barbaric figure blue rivers meander through a broad landscape of green and brown fields, the sky above an enamel blue.

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