Ercole Lelli was an Italian painter of the late-Baroque, active mainly in Northern Italy, including his native city of Bologna, as well as Padua and Piacenza.
Lelli was a pupil of the painter Giovanni Pietro Zanotti, but he also gravitated towards sculptural work. He excelled in the study of the anatomy of the human body as well as painting.
Starting in 1742 he helped prepare artistic anatomical wax displays at the University of Bologna.
The wax modeler and anatomist Giovanni Manzolini worked as his assistant from 1743.
Manzolini resigned in late 1746 after three years.
He felt bitterly that Lelli had deprived him of recognition for his greater knowledge of anatomy and anatomical sculpture.
Nicolo Toselli was another of Lelli's pupils.
In 1746 Lelli became a member of both the Bolognese art society, Accademia Clementina, and the science society, Istituto delle scienze. He had completed many medals for the local Mint. A few pictures are extant, including a Virgin and child with St. Anthony of Padua and St. Clara for the church of Sant' Andrea delle Scuole at Bologna; and a St. Fidèle for the church of the Cappuccini at Piacenza.