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Neoclassical, Art, Mythology, Hercules Slaying Hydra, Carracci, Antique Print, London, Late 18th Century

$400

Ludovico Carracci (1555-1619) (after)
Richard Dalton (1720-1791) (engraver)
Hercules in the Pallazzo Grassi at Bologna
London: Late 18th Century
Engraving
20.75 x 13.5 inches, plate mark
22 x 15 inches, overall
$400

Painting of a contemplative Hercules after slaying the Hydra, a monster that according to myth lived in the swamps of Lerna. He sits on a rock, wearing the Nemean lion skin and holding a pointed club, his foot resting on the Hydra’s slack body.

In classical mythology, Hercules was sentenced to complete 12 labors, the second labor being the slaying of the Lernaean Hydra, a monstrous many-headed serpent. This print is based on a painting by the renowned Italian artist, Ludovico Carracci that is currently in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (see Parada reference below to view painting), although according to the title of the print, the original painting was in the Palazzo Grassi in Bologna, Italy. Given that the engraver was Richard Dalton, who served as a librarian and curator for George III of England, it seems plausible that the painting was in one of the royal collections at that time.

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Description

Ludovico Carracci was a member of a large Italian family of artists. He belonged to a generation that included his cousins Agostino Carracci and Annibale Carracci. They lived in Bologna, where they rose to artistic prominence in the last quarter of the 16th century, and opened a celebrated art academy that trained some of the important Italian artists of the 17th century including Domenichino and Guido Reni. Through their artwork and their academy, the three men launched a progressive movement against the artificiality of Mannerist aesthetics which initiated the Baroque. They worked closely together until 1595, when Annibale left for Rome. Ludovico’s paintings, principally religious and mythological works, are in Europe’s great museums, including the Louvre and Hermitage.

Richard Dalton was an engraver, draftsman and curator. While serving as George III’s librarian, he met the great mezzotint engraver Francesco Bartolozzi on a visit to Italy in the 1760s. This led to Bartolozzi coming to England to work on a series of etchings after Guercino in the Royal Collection, which Dalton himself also worked on (the plates were later purchased and published by John & Josiah Boydell). In 1778, Dalton became surveyor of the royal pictures. His engravings include works after Holbein paintings and antique statues. By analogy to the publishing history of the Guercino works, this print of Hercules after Carracci, engraved by Dalton, was probably issued in London (by Boydell or similar publisher) individually or available bound with other prints after old master paintings in a single volume.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual light overall toning and wear, soft creases, printers creases. Apparently disbound left margin resulting in slight chipping abutting platemark.

References:

Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 2, pp. 336-337.

“John Boydell and Prints in Imitation of Drawings from the Royal Collection.” The Hunterian Art Gallery: Connoisseurs, Collectors and Copyists. http://www.hunterian.gla.ac.uk/Archives/CCCexhib/introboyd.htm (27 July 2005).

“Ludovico Carracci.” Think Quest Virtual Restoration Project. http://library.thinkquest.org/18291/data/chiostro/htmlen/lcarracci.html (28 July 2005).

Parada, Carlos. “Hercules and the Hydra. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.” Greek Mythology Link: Heracles Album. 1997. http://homepage.mac.com/cparada/GML/000Free/000Heracles/source/42.html (28 July 2005).

Williamson, George C., ed. Bryan’s Dictionary of Painters and Engravers. London: G. Bell and Sons: 1930. Vol. 2, p. 6.

Additional information

Century

19th Century