Jan Gossaert (about 1478–1532)

Jan Gossaert

Hercules and Deianira

Possibly Antwerp, 1517
Oil on wood

36.8 x 26.6 cm

The classical hero Hercules is shown embracing his wife Deianira.

Their seat is decorated with images of his heroic exploits, including the defeat of the Nemean lion and his victory over Antaeus. Their erotic encounter, however, is doomed. Deianira sits on the silver cloak given to her by the evil centaur Nessus. When Hercules wears it he will be engulfed in flames and die.

Gossaert visited Italy in 1508–9. On his return he was the first artist in the Netherlands to produce classical subjects with nude figures.

Purchased 1946 (Inv No. 46.10)


This painting was on loan to the Getty Centre in Los Angeles for the exhibition ‘The Renaissance Nude 1400-1530’, 30 October 2018 – 27 January 2019.

It was also shown in the same exhibition at the Royal Academy in London, 28 February 2019 – 2 June 2019.


Find out more in our online talks:

Audio and transcript available.

21 July 2020