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Hercules and Omphale

© 2005 RMN / Gérard Blot

Paintings
French painting

Author(s):
Pomarède Vincent

Hercules has fallen under the spell of Omphale, Queen of Lydia, and is reduced to spinning wool, spindle and distaff in hand. Omphale is wearing the hero's lion skin and is clasping his club in an extremely suggestive manner. The sensuality and vibrancy of the painting reflect the influence of Venetian art.

The myth

Wishing to expiate the murder of one of his friends, Hercules consulted the oracle of Apollo, who advised him to enter the service of Omphale, Queen of Lydia. Although Hercules was the son of Zeus and was famed for his invincible strength, he submitted to the tasks the queen devised for him to expiate his crime. Omphale fell in love with Hercules for his strength and physical beauty, and the couple married. This tale, found in both Greek and Roman mythology, is told with a number of variations. It proved a great source of inspiration for French and Italian Mannerist painters, as well as the Venetian artists who influenced Lemoyne. François Boucher also painted a version of the same love scene.

A love of color and boundless admiration for Venetian art

François Lemoyne was the teacher of François Boucher. He was the artist who decorated the Hercules Salon in the chateau of Versailles. He paved the way for 18th-century French painting with two great artistic passions, perfectly encapsulated in this painting. These two passions, which were to have a profound influence later in the century, were a love of color - the admirers of Rubens had eventually won the argument over the use of color that had divided the Royal Academy since the late 17th century - and boundless admiration for the great Venetian artists of the 16th century.

Technical description

  • François LEMOYNE (Paris, 1688 - Paris, 1737)

    Hercules and Omphale

    1724

  • H. 1.84 m; W. 1.49 m

  • Bequest of Dr. Louis La Caze, 1869

    M.I. 1086

  • Paintings

    Sully wing
    2nd floor
    The painters of Louis XV
    Room 38

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