Hendrick Goltzius, active in Haarlem, was reckoned to be among the foremost copper engravers in the Netherlands when he embarked on a journey to Italy in 1590–91 that led him to Rome at the end of 1590. There, he studied works of art from Antiquity, among them, the famous statue of the Farnese Hercules, which had not been unearthed until the 1540s, and is located in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, today. Goltzius’s particular fascination for this Antique work of art finds expression in the unusually low vantage point and in the admiring gazes of the two viewers, these most likely being the artist himself and his son-in-law Jacob Matham. Goltzius’s engraving shows the victorious, virtuous hero of Greek mythology from behind so that we do not see the club in front of the rock, though we do espy the hide of the Nemean Lion and, in his right hand, the three apples of the Hesperides. Goltzius translated to paper the plasticity of the muscular, marble body by drawing sweeping lines that rise and fall with his burin, creating volume by means of a lively play of light and shade.


  • Title: Farnesian Hercules
  • Creator: Hendrick Goltzius
  • Date Created: c. 1592
  • Physical Dimensions: 417.0 x 300.0 mm
  • Type: print
  • Rights: Kunsthalle Bremen - Der Kunstverein in Bremen. Kupferstichkabinett
  • Medium: Copperplate engraving

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