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Hercules and Omphale

Alessandro Turchi, 1620 about

WAG 1995.354

About this object

This drawing depicts Hercules spinning thread in the service of Omphale, the queen of Lydia. The scene is based on a Greek myth that overturns conventional gender roles and balances of power. It tells the story of how Hercules became enslaved to the Queen of Lydia. This punishment was directed by the oracle at Delphi as to atone for the murder of his friend Iphitos. Once captive, Omphale forced the once might warrior to spin wool, a task traditionally done by women in domestic servitude, and to even wear women’s clothes.

The inversion of traditionally male and female roles, dominance and submission, are the central focus of this drawing. Hercules subservience is emphasised. He is shown seated on the left, slumped, holding a distaff in his left hand and a spindle in his right. Omphale is pictured standing in front of Hercules's semi-clothed jeering at him. She is wearing the lion's pelt Hercule’s wore to commemorate his famous victor over the Nemean Lion and leaning on his club. She is surrounded by four ladies in waiting who wear expressions of mockery and derision on their faces.

This drawing is a finished design or "modello" for the large painting of "Hercules and Omphale," now at Alte Pinakothek, Munich (No 496), one of Turchi's most famous works from his early Roman period. It can be dated to about 1620, as Giulio Mancini refers to Turchi's "Hercules in the act of spinning" as already finished in 1621. Turchi was sometimes referred to as Alessandro Veronese after his birth place Verona. He was also nicknamed ‘l'Orbetto’, the little blind boy. His father, whom he always accompanied as a child, was a blind beggar.

Object specifics

  • Artist(s)
    Alessandro Turchi (Italian, born:1578, died:1649-01-22)
  • Date
    1620 about
  • Materials
    Paper; Chalk Black and brown wash
  • Measurements
    20 x 26.6 cm
  • Physical description
    A black chalk and brown wash drawing depicting Hercules spinning thread in the service of Omphale, the queen of Lydia. Hercules is seated on the left, slumped, holding a distaff in his left hand and a spindle in his right. Omphale, standing in front him semi-clothed in Hercules's lion's pelt and leaning on his own club, jeers at him with surrounded by four ladies in waiting. One of them is seated on the far right, the other three standing, all with various expressions and poses of mockery. Cupid is standing beside Hercules on the lower left. T
  • Related people
    Charles Robert Blundell (Previous owner); William Roscoe (Previous owner); The Trustees of The Weld Heirlooms Settlement (Previous owner); Alessandro Turchi (Artist/maker)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 11368
  • Credit line
    Purchased from the Trustees of the Weld Heirlooms Settlement with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, Sir Denis Mahon and British Nuclear Fuels in 1995
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Collection
    From the Walker Art Gallery collections

Ownership

Previous owners

  • The Trustees of The Weld Heirlooms Settlement

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1995
    Disposal method: Sold to the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside
  • Charles Robert Blundell

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: At Roscoe sale, 1816, lot 270, bought by Slater on behalf of Charles Blundell.
    Owned until: 1837
    Disposal method: By descent to the Weld family
  • William Roscoe

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1816
    Disposal method: Roscoe sale, 1816, lot 270.

Inscriptions

Item inscriptions

  • Inscription text: no 4
    Inscription method: Ink
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Back
  • Inscription text: ALEZANDRO VERONESE
    Inscription method: Ink
    Inscription note: Turchi was sometimes referred to as Alessandro Veronese after his birth place Verona.
    Inscription location: Lower right; Mount
  • Inscription text: ALEX.RO
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Front; Lower right; On plate
  • Inscription text: [an unidentified lozenge pattern]
    Inscription method: Marked
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Mount
Object view = Fine Art
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