Robetta (Cristofano di Michele Martini) (Italian, Florentine, 1462–after 1534), after Antonio Pollaiuolo (Italian, Florentine, 1431/32–1498)
sheet 9 1/8 x 7 1/4 in. (23.2 x 18.4 cm)
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1927 (27.20.2)
The son of Jupiter and the mortal Alcmene, Hercules (Herakles in Greek) possessed a superhuman strength that allowed him to defeat tyrants and destroy monsters. As the legendary founder of Florence, he appeared on the city seal already in the thirteenth century. In 1460, Pollaiuolo painted three canvases depicting the labors of Hercules for the great hall of the Medici palace in Florence, the first large-scale mythological decorations of the Renaissance. Robetta's engraving seems to record one of these lost works, in which Hercules battles the Hydra with a torch. By cauterizing the wounds with fire, the hero was able to prevent two new heads from sprouting each time one was cut off.