Master Collection 13: Hercules Slaying the Hydra
Hercules Slaying the Hydra by Giovanni Andrea Sirani (1610-1670). Brown wash on paper.
The man with a club is the mythical Greek hero Hercules.
He is wearing a lion skin.
- Can you see the lion’s head worn like a hood and the lion’s paws hanging down?
The monster has seven heads. It is a Hydra, or watersnake.
Hercules personified physical strength and courage. His battle with the Hydra was the second of Twelve Labours, set by the Delphic Oracle as penance for Hercules having murdered his own children in a fit of madness.
The seven-headed Hydra had terrorised the country of Lerna, near Argos. When someone chopped off a head the Hydra instantly grew two more. In the drawing Hercules is fruitlessly trying to club it.
The way Hercules managed to overcome the Hydra, which we don’t see in the drawing, was by cauterising the heads with a burning torch. Hercules was able to do this with help from a companion. The Hydra’s last head was immortal. Hercules cut it off and buried it under a rock, dipping his arrows in the Hydra’s poisoned gall for possible use in subsequent labours.