Hercules at the Court of Omphale

Hercules at the Court of Omphale

Title

Hercules at the Court of Omphale

[Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012] [Schuchart 1851, Vol. II, 132, No. 419; Vol. III, 202-204]

Painting on beech wood

Medium

Painting on beech wood

[Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]
[Klein, Report 1994]

Hans Cranach here depicts an episode from the story of Hercules, who according to Greek legend murdered his friend Iphitus in a struggle for power and who was thus punished by Hermes, who sold him to the court of Queen Omphale where he had to remain as a slave for

Hans Cranach here depicts an episode from the story of Hercules, who according to Greek legend murdered his friend Iphitus in a struggle for power and who was thus punished by Hermes, who sold him to the court of Queen Omphale where he had to remain as a slave for three years.

The atmosphere in the painting is cool and distant, both with regard to the colour range and to the type of interaction between the figures. Cranach depicts Hercules seated on a wooden bench, surrounded by three courtly women and subjected to female rule, despite his celebrated physical strength. None of the women wears any distinctive item of dress or adornment for which reason it has been suggested that they are the queen's ladies-in-waiting. There are versions of this composition by Lucas Cranach the Elder, but this one has been attributed to his son Hans due to the date and to the presence of the initials "HC" and the monogram of a serpent. Other depictions of this subject by Lucas Cranach the Elder include one formerly in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, Berlin (lost in World War II), and various versions in which there are differences in the female figures surrounding Hercules.

[Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]

Attribution
Hans Cranach

Attribution

Hans Cranach

[Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012] [Exhib. Cat. Chemnitz 2005, 495]

Production date
1537

Production date

1537

[dated]

Dimensions
Dimensions of support: 57.5 x 85.3 cm

Dimensions

  • Dimensions of support: 57.5 x 85.3 cm

  • Dimensions including frame: 80 x 107 cm

  • [Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]

Signature / Dating
Artist's insignia on the right edge in the centre: winged serpent between the monogram 'H. C.' and dated '1537'

Signature / Dating

  • Artist's insignia on the right edge in the centre: winged serpent between the monogram 'H. C.' and dated '1537'

  • [Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]

Inscriptions and Labels
- top centre: 'HERCVLEIS MANIBVS DANT LYDAE PENSA PVELLAE/ IMPERIVM DOMINAE FERT DEVS ILLE SVAE/ SIC CAPIT INGENTES ANIMOS DAMNOSA VOLVPTAS/ …

Inscriptions and Labels

Inscriptions, Badges:

  • - top centre: 'HERCVLEIS MANIBVS DANT LYDAE PENSA PVELLAE/ IMPERIVM DOMINAE FERT DEVS ILLE SVAE/ SIC CAPIT INGENTES ANIMOS DAMNOSA VOLVPTAS/ FORTIAQVE ENERVAT PECTORA MOLLIS AMOR'
  • [Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]
Owner
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Repository
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Location
Madrid
CDA ID
ES_MTB_108-1929-15
FR (1978) Nr.
FR275
Persistent Link
https://lucascranach.org/en/ES_MTB_108-1929-15/

Provenance

  • in the collection of Councillor Müller, Weimar
  • Private Collection, Nuremberg, 1866
  • Galerie Julius Böhler, Munich, 1911
  • Chillingworth Collection, Nuremberg, until 1922
  • auctioned in Galerie Fischer, lot 45, Lucern, 05.09.1922
  • Private Collection, England
  • Galerie Julius Böhler, Berlin, 1929
  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano, 1929
  • in 1992 on deposit in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
  • in 1993 aquired by the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

[Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]

Exhibitions

Munich 1930, No. 85
London 1988, No. 14
Madrid 2007 - 2008
Coburg 2010, No. 1.4.07
Karlsruhe 2011 - 2012, No. 2
Düsseldorf 2017, No. 177

Literature

Reference on page Catalogue Number Figure / Plate
Heydenreich 2021 B 59, 69
AuthorGunnar Heydenreich
TitleHans Kemmer: Spuren künstlerischer Gestaltungsprozesse. Teil II: Wittenberg
Publicationin Dagmar Täube, ed., Lucas Cranach der Ältere und Hans Kemmer. Meistermaler zwischen Renaissance und Reformation [Lübeck, St. Annen-Museum]
Place of PublicationMunich
Year of Publication2021
Pages59-69
Teget-Welz 2018 223
AuthorManuel Teget-Welz
TitleVon Gotha in die Ganze Welt. Die Fürstenserie des Monogrammisten IS
Publicationin Klaus Weschenfelder, ed., Cranach in Coburg. Gemälde von Lucas Cranach d.Ä., Lucas Cranach d.J., der Werkstatt und des Umkreises in den Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg
Place of PublicationRegensburg
Year of Publication2018
Pages209-228
Exhib. Cat. Düsseldorf 2017 285 No. 177
EditorGunnar Heydenreich, Daniel Görres, Beat Wismer
TitleLucas Cranach der Ältere. Meister - Marke - Moderne. [anlässlich der Ausstellung "Cranach. Meister - Marke - Moderne", Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, 08. April 2017 - 30. Juli 2017]
Place of PublicationMunich
Year of Publication2017
Heydenreich 2017 A 75
AuthorGunnar Heydenreich
TitleCranach? Fragen der Zuschreibung im Lichte kunsttechnologischer Untersuchungen
Publicationin Gunnar Heydenreich, Daniel Görres, Beat Wismer, eds., Lucas Cranach der Ältere. Meister - Marke - Moderne. [Exhib. Cat. Düsseldorf 2017]
Place of PublicationMunich
Year of Publication2017
Link https://lucascranach.org/application/files/7316/7870/1704/Heydenreich_2017_Cranach_Fragen_der_Zuschreibung.pdf
Pages72-81
Heydenreich 2015 120, 122-125, Fn. 39, 69 Figs. 2, 5h
AuthorGunnar Heydenreich
TitleHans Cranach. Auf der Suche nach seinem verlorenen Oeuvre
Publicationin Elke A. Werner, Anne Eusterschulte, Gunnar Heydenreich, eds., Lucas Cranach der Jüngere und die Reformation der Bilder
Place of PublicationMunich
Year of Publication2015
Link https://lucascranach.org/application/files/5415/6232/3883/Heydenreich_2015_-_Hans_Cranach.pdf
Pages116 -127
Pöpper 2015 303, 304 Fig. 3
AuthorThomas Pöpper
TitleCranachs Bildgegenstände oder 'size matters'. Zur Evidenz von Stitze, Schleifkanne, Schenkkrug und Spinnstab
Publicationin Elke A. Werner, Anne Eusterschulte, Gunnar Heydenreich, eds., Lucas Cranach der Jüngere und die Reformation der Bilder
Place of PublicationMunich
Year of Publication2015
Pages298-307
Sandner, Heydenreich, Smith-Contini 2015 135, Fn. 52-54
AuthorGunnar Heydenreich, Ingo Sandner, Helen Smith-Contini
TitleVeränderungen beim Unterzeichnen in Cranachs Werkstatt und die Arbeitsweise von Sohn Lucas
Publicationin Elke A. Werner, Anne Eusterschulte, Gunnar Heydenreich, eds., Lucas Cranach der Jüngere und die Reformation der Bilder
Place of PublicationMunich
Year of Publication2015
Link https://lucascranach.org/application/files/5215/6337/7366/Heydenreich_Sandner_Smith-Contini_2015_-_Unterzeichnung.pdf
Pages128-141
Exhib. Cat. Karlsruhe 2011 148-149 No. 2 Fig. 2
EditingHolger Jacob-Friesen
TitleVon Schönheit und Tod. Tierstillleben in der Renaissance bis zur Moderne [Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle]
Place of PublicationHeidelberg
Year of Publication2011
Exhib. Cat. Paris 2011 40
EditorGuido Messling
TitleCranach et son temps [Paris, Musée du Luxembourg]
Place of PublicationParis
Year of Publication2011
Exhib. Cat. Coburg 2010 219, 220 1.4.07 Fig. 1.4.07
EditorLWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Münster, Klaus Weschenfelder, Beate Böckum, Ruth Hansmann, Matthias Müller
TitleApelles am Fürstenhof, Facetten der Hofkunst um 1500 im Alten Reich
Place of PublicationBerlin
Year of Publication2010
Schauerte 2010 38, 40
AuthorThomas Schauerte
TitleDie deutschen Apelliden. Anmerkungen zu humanistischen und nationalen Aspekten in höfischen Bildwerken der Dürerzeit
Publicationin Matthias Müller, Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg, eds., Apelles am Fürstenhof. Facetten der Hofkunst um 1500 im Alten Reich Exhib. Cat. Coburg 2010
Place of PublicationBerlin
Year of Publication2010
Pages35-43
Cat. Madrid 2009 293 Fig.
EditorMar Borobia, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
TitleMuseo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Pintura Antigua
Place of PublicationMadrid
Year of Publication2009
Brinkmann 2007 23
AuthorBodo Brinkmann
TitleDas Lächeln der Madonna. Lucas Cranach und die Folgen
Publicationin Bodo Brinkmann, ed., Cranach der Ältere, Exhib. Cat. Frankfurt
Place of PublicationOstfildern
Year of Publication2007
Pages17-27
Evans 2007 57
AuthorMark Evans
Title"Die Italiener, sonst so ruhmsüchtig, bieten Dir die Hand": Lucas Cranach und die Kunst des Humanismus
Publicationin Bodo Brinkmann, ed., Cranach der Ältere, Exhib. Cat. Frankfurt
Place of PublicationOstfildern
Year of Publication2007
Pages49-61
Exhib. Cat. Madrid 2007/2008
EditorFernando Checa
TitleDurero y Cranach. Arte y Humanismo en la Alemania del Renacimiento [Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza]
Place of PublicationMadrid
Year of Publication2007
Exhib. Cat. Chemnitz 2005 495, 496 under No. 45 Figs. 213, 214
EditorHarald Marx, Karin Kolb, Ingrid Mössinger
TitleCranach Anlässlich der Ausstellung Cranach vom 13. November 2005 bis 12. März 2006 in den Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz. Eine Ausstellung in Kooperation mit der Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden
Place of PublicationCologne
Year of Publication2005
Kotkova 2005 A 11 (English version 5)
AuthorOlga Kotková
TitleLucas Cranach. Vývesní stít staronemecké malby/ Lucas Cranach. The signboard of Old German Painting
Publicationin Kaliopi Chamonikola, ed., Pod znamením okrídleného hada. Lucas Cranach a ceské zeme, Under the winged Serpent, Lucas Cranach and the Czech Lands, Exhib. Prague 2005
Place of PublicationPrague
Year of Publication2005
Pages8-12 (4-5)
Snyder 2005 351 Fig.
AuthorJames Snyder
TitleNorthern Renaissance Art. Painting, sculpture, the graphic arts from 1350 to 1575
Place of PublicationUpper Saddle River/N.J.
IssueSecond edition
Year of Publication2005
Cat. Madrid 1992 326, 671 No. 108 Fig.
AuthorMar Borobia, Pita Andrade, José Manuel
EditorMuseo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
TitleMaestros Antiguos del Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
Place of PublicationBarcelona
Year of Publication1992
Lübbeke 1991 182-189 No. 41 Fig.
AuthorSammlung Thyssen-Bornemisza, Isolde Lübbeke
TitleThe Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Early German painting 1350-1550
Place of PublicationLondon
Year of Publication1991
Cat. Lugano-Castagnola 1989 87 Fig.
AuthorCaroline de Watteville
EditorThyssen-Bornemisza Collection
TitleThe Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Guide to the Exhibited Works
Place of PublicationMilan
Year of Publication1989
Exhib. Cat. London 1988 No. 14
AuthorDavid Ekserdjian
EditorThyssen-Bornemisza Collection
TitleOld Master Paintings from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection [London, The Royal Academy]
Place of PublicationMilan, London
Year of Publication1988
Cat. Lugano-Castagnola 1986 82 No. 74 Fig.
EditorGertrude Borghero, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection
TitleThyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Catalogue raisonné of the exhibited works of art
Place of PublicationMilan
Year of Publication1986
Goldberg 1983 B 29, 31 Fig.
AuthorGisela Goldberg
TitleOld Master of the German School
JournalApollo
Issue118
Year of Publication1983
Friedländer, Rosenberg 1979 No. 275
AuthorMax J. Friedländer, Jakob Rosenberg
EditorG. Schwartz
TitleDie Gemälde von Lucas Cranach
Place of PublicationBasel, Boston, Stuttgart
Year of Publication1979
Cadorin 1977 13-14 Fig. 6
AuthorPaolo Cadorin
TitleErkenntnisse aus technologischer Untersuchung an Gemälden von Lukas Cranach d.Ae und seinem Kreis
Publicationin D. Koepplin, ed., Akten des Kolloquiums zur Basler Cranach-Ausstellung 1974
Place of PublicationBasel
Year of Publication1977
Pages13-14
Exhib. Cat. Basel 1974/1976 337, 574-576, 582, 706, 707, 710 No. 473 Pl. 21, Fig. 349, 350
AuthorDieter Koepplin, Tilman Falk
TitleLukas Cranach. Gemälde, Zeichnungen und Druckgraphik
Volume1, 2
Place of PublicationBasel, Stuttgart
Year of Publication1974
Link http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:bsz:16-diglit-104522
Schade 1974 78 Fig. 179
AuthorWerner Schade
TitleDie Malerfamilie Cranach
Place of PublicationDresden
Year of Publication1974
Link http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/schade1974
Schade 1973 A 116-118
AuthorWerner Schade
TitleDie Stellung der Söhne innerhalb der Werkstatt Cranachs (1534-1538)
Publicationin P.H. Feist, E. Ullmann, G. Brendler, eds., Lucas Cranach, Künstler und Gesellschaft, Referate des Colloquiums mit internationaler Beteiligung zum 500. Geburtstag Lucas Cranachs d.Ä., Staatliche Lutherhalle Wittenberg, 1.-3. Oktober 1972
Place of PublicationWittenberg
Year of Publication1973
Pages116-118
Cat. Lugano-Castagnola 1971
AuthorJohann Ebbinge-Wubben, Charles James Sterling, Christian A. zu Salm
EditorRudolf Heinemann, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection
TitleSammlung Thyssen-Bornemisza
Volume1, 2
Place of PublicationZurich
Year of Publication1971
Cat. Lugano-Castagnola 1969 84 (vol. 1) No. 74 Fig. 63 (vol. 2)
AuthorJohann Ebbinge-Wubben, Charles James Sterling, Christian A. zu Salm
EditorRudolf Heinemann, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection
TitleThe Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection
Volume1, 2
Place of PublicationLugano-Castagnola
Year of Publication1969
Cat. Lugano-Castagnola 1964
EditorRudolf Heinemann, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection
TitleCollection Chateau de Rohoncz
Place of PublicationLugano
Year of Publication1964
Schade 1961/1962 34, 39
AuthorWerner Schade
TitleZum Werk der Cranach
JournalJahrbuch der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden
Issue3/4
Year of Publication1962
Pages29-49
Rosenberg 1960 26
AuthorJakob Rosenberg
TitleDie Zeichnungen Lucas Cranachs d.Ä.
Place of PublicationBerlin
Year of Publication1960
Cat. Lugano-Castagnola 1958 36 No. 102
AuthorRudolf Heinemann
EditorThyssen-Bornemisza Collection
TitleStiftung Sammlung Schloss Rohoncz
Place of PublicationLugano-Castagnola
Year of Publication1958
Giesecke 1955 188
AuthorAlbert Giesecke
TitleWappen, Siegel und signet Lucas Cranachs und seiner Söhne und ihre Bedeutung für die Cranach-Forschung
JournalZeitschrift für Kunstwissenschaft
Issue9
Year of Publication1955
Pages181-192
Exhib. Cat. Lugano 1949 25 No. 64
AuthorRudolf Heinemann, Adolf Feulner
EditorThyssen-Bornemisza Collection
TitleAus dem Besitz der Stiftung Sammlung Schloss Rohoncz [Lugano-Castagnola, Villa Favorita]
Place of PublicationLugano-Castagnola
Year of Publication1949
Cat. Lugano-Castagnola 1937 36 102 Pl. 55 (vol. 2)
AuthorRudolf Heinemann
EditorThyssen-Bornemisza Collection
TitleStiftung Sammlung Schloss Rohoncz
Volume2 vols
Place of PublicationLugano-Castagnola
Year of Publication1937
Friedländer, Rosenberg 1932 70-71 226 Fig. 226
AuthorMax J. Friedländer, Jakob Rosenberg
TitleDie Gemälde von Lucas Cranach
Place of PublicationBerlin
Year of Publication1932
Link http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/friedlaender1932
Exhib. Cat. Munich 1930 A No. 85
Authorn. a.
TitleSammlung Schloss Rohoncz, Plastik und Gewerbe [Munich, Neue Pinakothek]
Place of PublicationMunich
Year of Publication1930
Heyck 1927 80, 106 Fig. 78
AuthorEduard Heyck
TitleLucas Cranach
Place of PublicationBielefeld
Year of Publication1927
Glaser 1923 130-132 Fig.
AuthorCurt Glaser
TitleLukas Cranach
Place of PublicationLeipzig
Year of Publication1923
Link http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/glaser1923
Friedländer 1913 A 55
AuthorMax J. Friedländer
TitleLukas Cranach d. Ä.; Hans Cranach; Lukas Cranach d. J.; Wilhelm Lucas von Cranach
Publicationin Ulrich Thieme, Felix Becker eds., Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart
Volume8
Place of PublicationLeipzig
Year of Publication1913
Pages55-59
Schuchardt 1871 202-204
AuthorChristian Schuchardt
TitleLucas Cranach des Aeltern Leben und Werke. Dritter Theil
Place of PublicationLeipzig
Year of Publication1871
Link http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/schuchardt1871bd3
Parthey 1863-1864 690 (Bd. 1) No. 193
AuthorGustav Parthey
TitleDeutscher Bildersaal. Verzeichnis der in Deutschland vorhandenen Oelbilder verstorbener Maler aller Schulen
Volume1, 2
Place of PublicationBerlin
Year of Publication1864
Schuchardt 1851 C 132 419
AuthorChristian Schuchardt
TitleLucas Cranach des Aeltern Leben und Werke. Zweiter Theil
Place of PublicationLeipzig
Year of Publication1851
Link http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/schuchardt1851bd2

Research History / Discussion

In this horizontal composition Hans Cranach depicted an episode from the story of Hercules which is not particularly heroic in comparison to most of the hero’s labours and exploits. This story had little repercussion in the classical world and the first examples date from the Hellenistic period then reappear in the Renaissance. Having completed his twelve labours, Hercules went to Oechalia where its king, Eurytus, had organised an archery competition whose winner would marry his daughter. Hercules was proclaimed the winner but the king, fearing an attack of madness by the demigod, refused to hand over his daughter. The angry Hercules abandoned Oechalia but stole the king’s cattle. The monarch suspected him but his son Iphitus defended him and went in search of Hercules and the cattle. They met and in an attack of madness Hercules killed Iphitus. As punishment he was sold as a slave by Hermes to Omphale, Queen of Lydia, for a period of three years. At her court Hercules was dressed as a woman and spent his time at female tasks such as spinning and carding wool, and was also Omphale’s lover. In addition, role reversal took place and Omphale dressed as Hercules with the lion’s skin, club and bow. In general terms this subject symbolises women’s control over men.

Hans Cranach looked for his inspiration to his father’s depictions of this subject. The present panel, which is signed with Hans Cranach’s initials and dated 1537, must have been painted in the first half of the year because the painter died unexpectedly in Bologna on 9 October. The similarities with his father’s style are evident in the physical types and the overall execution. Hercules, whose expression suggests that he is not happy with his predicament, is located in the foreground, seemingly seated on a wooden bench. The demigod is flanked by two women who bring their faces close to his, while a third, standing, closes the composition on the right, holding a spindle and making contact with the viewer through her gaze. According to the story, the two women next to Hercules had to dress him as a woman, for which reason the one on the left has placed a wimple on his head, and to teach him to spin, hence the thread that the one on the right passes to him. Like his father before him, Hans Cranach set the scene in a contemporary context, dressing the women in court dress with fine velvet dresses and their hair arranged with small headdresses and covered with delicate veils. Apart from the flesh tones and the bright orange-yellow of the figure on the right the chromatic range is dark and intense.

[Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]

  • Hercules at the Court of Omphale, 1537

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Technical studies

2012Technical examination / Scientific analysis

  • Light microscopy

Support

- beech wood

Underdrawing

- the underdrawing can be seen with Infra-Red reflectography

[Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]

2012Technical examination / Scientific analysis

  • Infrared reflectography
  • irr

Underdrawing

DESCRIPTION

Tools/Materials:

- dry drawing material, dark chalk

Type/Ductus:

- relatively detailed in part freehand underdrawing; sections may also have been copied

- delicate, fine in part continuous (copied) lines (visible in the face)

Function:

- relatively binding for the final painted version; lines delineate contours and describe the essential details; no representation of volume

Deviations:

- minor alterations made during the painting process to clearly define form

INTERPRETATION

Attribution:

- Hans Cranach ?

Comments:

- possibly transferred from a pre-existing design?

[Smith, Sandner, Heydenreich, cda 2013]

  • photographed by Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

2001Technologische Untersuchung / Naturwissenschaftliche Materialanalyse

  • X-radiography
  • x_radiograph
  • created by Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

02.06.1994Scientific analysis

  • Identification of wood species / Dendrochronology

Support

The dendrochronological examination carried out by Prof. Peter Klein revealed the earliest felling date for the tree to be 1532, which, assuming a minimal storage period of two years, would confirm the date of the painting.

[Museo thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]

  • analysed by Peter Klein

1974Technical examination / Scientific analysis

  • X-radiography
  • x_radiograph
  • created by Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Condition Reports

Date2012

  • the panel was thinned

  • it is in a climate box, installed in 2010 and is protected by a polycarbonate panel and cardboard on the reverse

  • there are extensive repairs in the green background

  • two continuous horizontal joins are carefully retouched (they can be seen in the Infra-red reflectography)

[Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]

Citing from the Cranach Digital Archive

Entry with author
<author's name>, 'Hercules at the Court of Omphale', <title of document, data entry or image>. [<Date of document or image>], in: Cranach Digital Archive, https://lucascranach.org/en/ES_MTB_108-1929-15/ (Accessed {{dateAccessed}})
Entry with no author
'Hercules at the Court of Omphale', <title of document, data entry or image>. [<Date of document, entry or image>], in: Cranach Digital Archive, https://lucascranach.org/en/ES_MTB_108-1929-15/ (Accessed {{dateAccessed}})

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