Hercules, the drudgery of Hercules

  Not long ago I went to visit Hopeton Manor on the outskirts of Edinburgh, and I was attracted by the murals around the circular staircase. They come from the hands of the 17th-century Dutch painter Philip Tiederman, and depict the scene of the Hercules Hercules in Troy. Hercules was so powerful that he rescued Prometheus, and finally ascended to heaven as a member of the Olympus gods. Whether in the UK or other European countries, his image can often be seen. Hercules, also known as Hercules in Roman mythology, has a huge influence on Western culture, and has a presence in various fields such as literature and art.
Rubens loves Hercules

  The Rubens House, located in Antwerp, Belgium, is the most favorite residence of this famous painter. He spent most of his life there. Many sculptures of Hercules are displayed in the former residence. Obviously, Hercules is Rubens’ darling. This is also reflected in Rubens’s oil painting creation, he painted countless oil paintings with Hercules as the theme.
  Hercules was the child of Zeus and a mortal woman. He was repelled by the queen Hera from birth. The queen was a troublemaker and asked him to kill his wife and children. He didn’t get helpless, but was willing to be punished and went through twelve hardships to atone for his sins. His first job was to find the hide of the Nemean lion for King Eurystheus. Rubens’ work “Hercules and the Nemean Lion” painted exactly this. In the painting, Hercules and Nemea giant lion are fighting. Hercules stepped on a tiger with his left foot, and tried to contain the lion’s head with both hands, allowing the claws of the beast to pierce his skin. Hercules finally won, and the lion skin was made into a cloak over his shoulders. Later, the lion skin became the symbol of Hercules. In many ancient Greek vase paintings or sculptures, people can easily identify Hercules because he is dressed in lion skin.

Rubens’s work “Hercules and the Nemean Lion”.

Rubens’s “Hercules and Hellhound”.

  Rubens’ oil painting “Hercules Kills the Dragon in the Garden of Hesperides” presents the scene of Hercules beheading the dragon. This is another work of Hercules—killing the guard The dragon in the garden picks golden apples that make people live forever. “Hercules and Hellhound” is also Rubens’s work on the theme of drudgery. In the painting, Hercules is fighting with Cerberus, the hell dog guarding the underworld. Hercules not only went to hell and returned safely, but also successfully brought back the Hellhound.
  In contrast to the previous works, in “Hercules Drunk”, Rubens painted the first hero in Greek mythology as a drunk fat man. Hercules in the painting is not fighting bravely, but indulges in wine and can’t help herself. His strong body rested on Satir, who was originally a follower of Bacchus. At this moment, Hercules has lost the heroism that artists usually give him. However, this painting just reflects the inherent style of Rubens. His works are colorful, full of vitality and dynamic, and combine the realism style of the Flemish school with the classicism characteristics of the Italian Renaissance.

Rubens’s “Hercules Drunk”.

  Rubens’ painting “Hercules’s Dog Discovered Purple” describes the origin of ancient Greek purple dye. Legend has it that Hercules intends to woo the fairy Tyro. He took the dog to look for her. As he was walking along the beach, the dog suddenly bit a conch, and the dog’s mouth was dyed purple with the blood of the conch. Later, Tyro liked this purple very much and asked Hercules to give her a robe of the same color. This purple is the legendary Tyre purple.
  The Louvre Museum in France houses Rubens’s painting “Hercules and Honfleur”, which presents the story of Hercules being a slave to a queen named Honfleur. Rubens tells his story with his love for Hercules.
“Hercules Ascension” is very common

  In the European art world, Hercules’ ascension is a theme often expressed by artists, and it is often seen in zenith paintings. Among them, the most famous one is painted in the Palace of Versailles. At the junction of the northeast corner of the second floor of the main building of the Palace of Versailles and the north wing is the Hercules Hall, named after the ceiling painting “Hercules Ascension” in the hall. It covers an area of ​​370 square meters, which is the largest of all the halls.
  This huge zenith painting is the work of French Rococo artist François Lemoyne. Lemoyne was once considered to be a French court painter in the 17th century, and was the heir of Charles Le Brun, who was called “the greatest French artist ever” by Louis XIV. Le Brun painted a large number of murals and zenith paintings for the Palace of Versailles. Originally, Hercules was designated as the zenith painting of the Hall of Mirrors, but later changed his mind and chose paintings that embody Louis XIV’s remarkable achievements. More than half a century later, Lemoyne, 69 years younger than Lebrunn, decided to regain this theme that was abandoned by his predecessors, hoping to compare it with the Hall of Mirrors decorated by his predecessors.
  In 1736, after 3 years, Lemoyne completed this 480 square meter zenith painting almost by himself. There are 142 people in the painting, depicting the scene of the god Zeus, the queen Hera and his daughter Hibi welcoming Hercules at Olympia together. The brave and fearless Hercules stood on the chariot and accepted the blessing of Zeus. This was an important moment for him to ascend from a mortal to a god. The gods in the painting include Mars, the god of war, Poseidon, the goddess of dawn, Ojoy, and the goddess of rainbow, Elis. The whole painting is majestic and magnificent. However, this painting is not painted directly on the ceiling, but on the canvas first, and then the canvas is pasted on the ceiling. This method of creation has been controversial. Regrettably, Lemoyne committed suicide six months after completing this masterpiece.
  In the history of art, another equally important “Ascension of Hercules” was written by artist Giandomenico Tiepolo. This work was created by Tiepolo and his father for King Charles III of Spain. It is currently in the Thyssen Bonemissa Museum in Spain. The central figure in the painting is Hercules. He is sitting in a chariot pulled by four centaurs, wearing a lion skin cloak, and holding a stick symbolizing Hercules in his hand. Hercules stared at the Centaur Manesos, and a winged fairy was putting a flower crown on Hercules’ head. One of the hero’s entourages is the goddess Feimer. She is the embodiment of fame and fame. She is blowing the trumpet to announce this important message to the world. There is a Pillar of Hercules in the painting with the inscription “Non Plus Ultra” engraved on it, which means “There is nothing more than here”, indicating that this is the end of the world. This pillar symbolizes Hercules’ tenth mission, which is to bring back the cattle of the giant Gervong. Gervong lived in the westernmost part of the land. After Hercules arrived, he found that there was a very narrow strait. So he erected two huge stone pillars on both sides of the strait. This is also the origin of the Strait of Gibraltar. This work uses Hercules to symbolize the ruler at the time and praises the Spanish monarchy. This oil painting full of political meaning was very rare at the time.

  Shakespeare mentioned Hercules in Hamlet’s tone in “Hamlet”: “Let Hercules do what he wants to do. The cat will meow and the dog will have luck.”
The source of literary creation

  For more than 2000 years, the story of Hercules has inspired many writers, playwrights and poets. As early as the 6th century BC, the ancient Greek writer Hesiod wrote a long narrative poem “The Shield of Hercules”, which described the shield of Hercules in a superb and unprecedented description. But some people think that the poem was completed after repeated revisions by countless troubadours. The ancient Greek tragedy writer Euripides created “Children of Hercules” and “Crazy Hercules” using Hercules as the theme. Tragedy caused by Ra’s jealousy.

A sculpture of Hercules displayed in Rubens’s house.

  Shakespeare also has a soft spot for Hercules. He mentioned Hercules in Hamlet’s tone several times in “Hamlet”. For example, Hamlet said: “Let Hercules do what he wants to do. The cat will meow and the dog will have luck.” “But he is not like my father at all, just like me. Hercules is the same.” In 1599, the sign of the Globe Theatre created by Shakespeare painted the ancient Greek hero Hercules. He held the earth with both hands, and wrote in Latin below: The whole world is a theater. Today, the pillars of the Globe Theatre are also named after Hercules. These “Pillars of Hercules” are hand-carved from oak with a history of more than 400 years. Thomas Morales is a Hispanic poet, and his love for Hercules is reflected in his work “The Rose of Hercules.”
  American travel writer Paul Soru is also obsessed with the legend of Hercules. He set off from the “Pillar of Hercules” in Gibraltar and traveled around the Mediterranean for a week, and finally reached another “Pillar of Hercules” a few miles away. This journey lasted a year and a half, during which he took a car, train or ferry as a means of transportation, taking a remote path to experience the life of the locals. He wrote his experience along the way as “Pillars of Hercules.”
  Hercules was strong and brave, indomitable, and endured all the hardships entrusted to him. Even after ascending to heaven, he was still a brave warrior, continuing to punish evil and promote good. Rubens’ paintings have allowed the legend of Hercules to spread more widely. The grand scene of “Hercules Ascension” reveals that unyielding resistance will eventually pay off. There are too many literary works influenced by Hercules. The story of this hero has inspired the world: The flower of life only blooms in unremitting struggle. As long as you don’t succumb to fate and have a brave and strong heart, you will surely have hope