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Hercules and Omphale

Painting, 1731, 74×90 cm

Description of the artwork «Hercules and Omphale»

Art critics often write about the painting by Francois Boucher "Hercules and Omphale" is inherent “A rare pinkish-green color”. Quite fair. But who, looking at the best, perhaps, the canvas by Bush, first of all thinks about color? The image of passion "without cuts" captures. And the most insightful critic turns out to be that “Hercules and Omphala” is first and foremost the longest kiss in the history of Western European painting.

This kind of passion, I must say, is a huge rarity for Bush himself. Rococo art, the leading master of which he was, treats love themes in a more gallant way: with courtship, flirting, ostentatious coquetry and a few cloying courtesies (here it is legitimate to recall any from his popular pastorals). In “Hercules and Omphale” there is nothing like this - there is only sex that rushes out. And again, the critics are right. This time, those critics-contemporaries of Bush, who said, they say, Bush always uses mythological themes only to shame their heroines in a shameless way.

The interpretation of the myth of the thirteenth feat of Hercules Bush borrowed from the most beloved of ancient writers, Ovid. The artist with pleasure illustrated his “Metamorphoses” and, probably, with no less pleasure read “The Science of Love”.

One day, Hercules, through an inadvertent misstep, killed his friend Ifit. For this, the angry gods exiled him into slavery to the Lydian queen Omphale. She was famous for the rare ability to kill anyone. For the courageous strong man, Hercules Omphale invented humiliating torture. For example, forced him to change into a woman's dress and sat down to spin the yarn. The very same, in order to complete the mockery, she put on her shoulders the lion's skin, taken from Hercules, and paced with his club, a formidable weapon, with the help of which he accomplished his feats. Hercules conceived revenge Omfale for humiliation. As often happens (and as both Ovid and Bush must have known), hate precedes love. You can even say that the moment of "revenge and retribution" we observe in the picture of Bush.

Bush borrowed from the artists of the Renaissance era a simple and spectacular "pyramid composition", a masterful transfer of camera angles, as well as curly and plump cupids. But the artist needs the latter not only to traditionally remind: their arrows once again successfully achieved their goal. Cupids do not merely symbolize love - they are busy in Bush’s business: the first is holding a spinning wheel in their hands, the second is dragging a lion’s skin.
There is also a third cupid on the canvas — sculpted at the foot of the bed. Such an unexpected duplication of the living and the nonliving is necessary to emphasize an important idea for Rococo: there is no impassable boundary between theater and life, dreams and reality, sleep and reality, everything is conditional, everything is not really a little bit. And we, the audience, have no choice but to accept these rules of the game: yes, the scene depicted is frankly obscene, passionate on the verge of a foul, but this is not quite real, it’s just art ...

Author: Anna Yesterday
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait, Nude, Mythological scene

Style of art: Rococo

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1731

Size: 74×90 cm

Artwork in selections: 46 selections

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