Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens
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Peter Paul Rubens
Hercules Strangling the Nemean Lion, ca. 1639
Oil on panel with traces of red chalk, 23 x 39.2 cm
Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Gift of Dr. Charles and Nobuko Kuhn in honor of Charles L. Kuhn, Curator of the Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1930-1968, acc. no. 2000.199

Catalog Entry by Peter C. Sutton

Hercules' labors were penance for slaying his own children in a fit of madness. Having offended the Olympians, he was given a menial role serving a mortal. The Delphic oracle ordered that he serve Eurystheus, king of the Tiryns, for twelve years. Among the twelve labors imposed on Hercules by the king, the first was the killing of a lion that had terrorized the citizens of Nemea. When his weapons proved inadequate, he strangled the creature. Following this initial victory Hercules wore the lion's pelt as his emblem. Initially celebrated simply as tales of victorious strength, the labors acquired moral associations as the triumphs of good over evil...

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