The Adventures of Hercules

Heracles is a legendary figure from Greek mythology whose name was changed by the Romans to Hercules, which is a more popular use of his name. He went on many quests throughout his life, with the most popular ones being his 12 labors that he had to undergo after Hera drove him mad and caused him to kill his family. This gallery includes works from 1496 to 1653 of some of those labors and many of his other adventures done without color. 

Here is one of the labors where Hercules had to kill the Nemean Lion and kept his pelt as a cloak. This particular work shows a passage of time, starting with the fight and ending with him skinning the lion. By having Hercules struggling with the lion, the largest part of the image, it indicates that this occurred first. While just behind him is the dead lion and even further back it shows him skinning the lion to make his cloak.
This labor is where Hercules had to kill the dreaded Hydra of Lernea where every time a head was removed, two more grew back in its place. There is even one of the hydra's heads laying on the ground next to the beast. This work shows motion by having Hercules twisted slightly at the waist to show that he is winding up for another swing at the oddly diminutive hydra. The hydra is also rearing back with a couple heads looking to strike Hercules before he can take that swing.
Hercules's final labor was to go to Hades to capture the guardian, Cerberus. Here he's got a hold of its leash while they are in the middle of combat. Movement and proportion make this image come to life as we can see that Hercules is getting ready to strike Cerberus. Proportion shows that, further away, there are people trying to flee the area next to buildings that stretch into the distance.
Here, Hercules is defeating the invincible Antaeus by keeping him above the earth, from which he gains his strength, due to his mother being Gaia, until his power drained away and Hercules could kill him. Although I did have to laugh at first seeing the look on Hercules's face as if he was getting tired of Antaeus struggling and was looking at the viewer with his secret frustration. Even so, the image does give off the impression of the weakening Antaeus fighting to break free from Hercules's godlike strength.
It appears that Hercules is carrying a pair of columns and that there is a passage of time in the image as well with him knelt over a boar that could be the one from his labors, the Erymantihian boar. He is looking over his shoulder at the columns far in the background so perhaps he is remembering what he did earlier in the image. The illusion of motion is present here quite well with him walking through and the boat in the background with its sails full of wind.
Here, Hercules is trying to kill what could be either one of the Furies or the goddess Eris. This image is using movement to help get across that Hercules is trying to push his foe to the ground so that he can smash her with his club. You can almost feel the pain she is feeling from the way her head is bent backwards and the desperate attack with the snake in her hand.
Yet again Hercules is taking down his opponent whilst nude, getting ready to slam his club down onto his opponent to finish it off. The illusion of movement is here with Hercules holding down the dragon and his arms over his head as he's ready to strike. Also proportion plays a part here as he is larger than everything else in the image, showing that the other man, tree and the building is further away from where they are fighting.
It appears the Hercules has knocked down one of the centaurs that were trying to kidnap Hippodamia and is pulling her from his grasp. Using proportion, again we can see that the figures behind Hercules are further away from him as he is yet again the largest figure in the image. The way his body is positioned indicates that he is removing Hippodamia from the weak grasp of the fallen centaur as even she seems to be pushing away from him too.
Hercules is standing angrily over the bodies of several soldiers while a naked old woman rushes to attack another young woman with a club. The movement of the old woman is quite clear by how her hair is flowing behind her. The small cities in the background and the lion at the top right corner give us a sense of scale to show how far away they are from the horrible fighting that is occurring at the forefront of the image.
Here, we finally have the death of Hercules where he was suffering from the poison of the Lernean Hydra from his second labor so badly that he made a funeral pyre for himself so that a friend of his would light it to help him die. You can see the sadness in his friend's face as he watches Hercules burn, the smoke billowing away off the picture. The large man standing in front of the tiny buildings give a sense of the scale of just how far away those buildings are.
Credits: All media
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