The Infant Hercules (c.1785-1789)

Reynolds, Joshua (1723-1792)

The Infant Hercules
c.17851789
Oil on millboard, 25.5 × 21 cm
Princeton University Art MuseumPrinceton

This is believed to be a preparatory sketch for a history painting commissioned by Catherine the Great, with the subject left to Reynolds’s discretion. He chose a precocious demonstration of the remarkable strength of Hercules: attacked in his crib by snakes sent by his father’s jealous wife, Hera, the son of Alcmene strangled the reptiles. The subject was intended to flatter the ruler of an increasingly powerful Russia. Reynolds displayed the finished multi-figure canvas at the Royal Academy in 1788 before sending it to Russia. (PUAM)