The Infant Hercules

Various artists/makers

Not on view

In 1783, at the age of twenty-four, William Pitt became the youngest person ever to head the British government. King George III, who had become fed up with the machinations of a Whig coalition led by Charles James Fox and Frederick Lord North, finally prevailed upon Pitt to accept the premiership. When Rowlandson cast Pitt as the infant Hercules he echoed popular opinion, which saw the youthful minister as a refreshing change from his corrupt, self-serving predecessors. Like the classical hero, Pitt displays amazing strength as he strangles serpents determined to dispatch him. The snakes have the heads of Fox and North, while the shield marked "Chatham" implies that Pitt inherited his zeal from his famously principled father, the Earl of Chatham, just as Hercules’s supernatural strength came from his father, the god Jupiter.

The Infant Hercules, Thomas Rowlandson (British, London 1757–1827 London), Hand-colored etching

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.