Hercules and Cerberus


Hans Sebald Beham (1500-1550), Hercules and Cerberus, engraving, 1545. Bartsch 100, Pauli 104, Hollstein 67, second state (of 3) [with initials, date and title in the plate]. In very good condition, trimmed on the platemark but outside of the borderline, 2 1/4 x 3 inches.

Provenance: I.H. von Hefner, Alteneck (Lugt 1254, his stamp on verso)

A fine impression.

This shows the last of Hercules’s labors: pulling Cerberus out of the underworld. To do this he got Pluto to bring the monstrous dog into the light of day, but on the condition that Hercules would not use his weapons to drag Cerberus – and so his weapons can be seen on the ground.

The buildings burning in the background are borrowed from a Caraglio print of the same subject; Beham borrowed heavily from Italian sources for his Labors, and in fact his entire series appears to have been based on Caraglio’s series.