Caballero Abstract Hercules’ Madness in Modernity

Manuel Caballero

New Representations of Hercules’ Madness in Modernity: the depiction of Hercules and Lichas

Although Alcmene’s son was a multifaceted character in the ancient world (city founder, model of excellence, example of ruler’s virtue, etc), he was considered fundamentally to be a prototype of the saviour and the striving hero. Thus, many of the sculptures and paintings on pottery referred to his well-known Labours but there are a few surviving plastic representations of another interesting facet of this hero: his madness. The few images on this theme that have survived to the present day deal with the death of Hercules’ wife, Deianeira, and their children.

Caballero considers an important change in the perspective of Hercules’ madness in painting and sculpture in the Modern period. Turning away from the Labours and from Hercules as the savior of Deianeira, the attention of painters and sculptors in Modernity focused on another event in Hercules’ life, an event for which there is almost no evidence in ancient literature (the story appears mainly in Sophocles’ Trachiniae and Ovid’s Metamorphoses) and no evidence at all in ancient iconography: the death of Lichas. Antonio Canova’s great masterpiece, Hercules and Lichas, is probably the best example of this innovation and the paper concentrates on this sculpture, alongside other relevant representations, to examine the new portrayal of Hercules.

Provisional content for The Exemplary Hercules