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Work Hercules, Deianira, and Nessus

Department of Decorative Arts: Renaissance

Hercules, Dejanira and the Centaur Nessus

© 1997 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

Decorative Arts

Baratte Sophie

This bronze group of three spiraling figures is mentioned in an inventory of the collections of Emperor Rudolph II (1576-1612) in Prague drawn up between 1607 and 1611. In his arms the standing Hercules carries his bride Deianira, whom he has just delivered from the grip of the centaur Nessus.

Description and technique

The mythological subject is the scene following the rape of Deianira, a recurring theme in bronze sculptures by Giambologna and Pietro Tacca. The spiraling movement of the Hercules and Deianira group is balanced by the horizontal mass of the centaur Nessus. This approach gives the group an inner coherence that sets it apart from Giambologna's more tumultuous and dramatic Rape of the Sabines, of which Rudolph II owned at least one copy. Similar groups are known, but only the one in the Louvre is cast in a single piece using the lost-wax method. The others are nineteenth-century casts made of several parts; one is signed Crozatier and dated 1847. They were cast from the copy in the royal collections.


This is probably the sculpture Adrien de Vries mentions in a letter to Emperor Rudolph II, and it may have been cast between late 1602 and 1608. It is recognizable as number 1892 in the inventory of Rudolph II's Kunstkammer, drawn up between 1607 and 1611. Louis XIV gave the piece, which was probably stolen during the looting that accompanied the end of the Thirty Years War, to the Grand Dauphin in late 1681. It appears as number 3 in his 1689 inventory. After the death of his son, the king retook possession of the bronze.

The sculptor

Adrien de Vries was born in the Hague in 1556. He is mentioned in Florence in 1581 as a metal-caster in Giambologna's studio. He subsequently worked in Milan, Turin, Prague, Augsburg, and again in Prague, where he was sculptor at the imperial court. He died in Prague in 1626.

Technical description

  • Adriaen de VRIES (The Hague, c. 1545 - Prague, 1626)

    Hercules, Dejanira and the Centaur Nessus



  • Bronze

    H. 82 cm; L. 50 cm; W. 37 cm

  • Gift of Louis XIV to the Grand Dauphin in 1681

    OA 5424

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Rotonde Jean Boulogne
    Room 526

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