Hercules and Omphale card

Hercules and Omphale

WAG 1995.354

Currently not on display


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.