The Great Hercules

Artist: Hendrick Goltzius (Netherlandish, Mühlbracht 1558–1617 Haarlem)

Date: 1589

Medium: Engraving

Dimensions: 21 7/8 x 15 7/8 in. (55.5 x 40.4 cm)

Classification: Prints

Credit Line: Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1946

Accession Number: 46.140.28


This remarkable engraving has long been known as the Knollenman, or bulbous man. It shows Goltzius's bulging-muscle figure style at its most extreme. This Hercules is almost an inflated version of the lithe Apollo of a year earlier (51.501.3). Hercules was frequently associated with the Dutch in their rebellion against Spain, and one interpretation of his odd appearance is that he was meant as an embodiment of the Dutch nation.
This astounding piece exemplifies the confidence evident in Goltzius's work of the late 1580s. The deeply cut swelling lines exude bravado, as does the fact that this curious image was printed from a single large and no doubt expensive copper printing plate.