The muscular Greek god Hercules leans back to rest after completing the second of his twelve labors. King Eurystheus had ordered him to kill the monstrous, seven-headed hydra, a water-snake that ravaged the countryside. As soon as the hero cut off one head, however, two more appeared in its place. With the help of a companion, Hercules finally killed the creature by cauterizing the necks with a burning torch. Giulio Romano showed Hercules resting triumphant, with the hydra heads strewn around his feet. He holds his club under one arm and grasps the end of a torch in the other, while his bow and quiver of arrows hang from the tree behind.
This drawing does not relate to any known work. Some scholars have suggested that Guilio may have used it as a preparatory study for a print, while others believe he may have made it for a painting project commissioned by his patron, Ercole d'Este. The soldier Ercole was often associated with his namesake Hercules, the personification of strength and courage.