Hercules and Achelous

Artist: Attributed to the Master of the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian (Austrian)

Date: probably mid-17th century

Culture: probably Austrian

Medium: Ivory

Dimensions: Overall (confirmed): H. 11 x W. 6 1/4 x D. 4 3/8 in. (27.9 x 15.9 x 11.1 cm)

Classification: Sculpture-Miniature

Credit Line: The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982

Accession Number: 1982.60.129


The feats of Hercules provided sculptors with an opportunity to explore the power of the male figure in intricate action. This large group, carved fully in the round, shows the struggle between the mythological hero and one of his foes-either Antaeus or Achelous, a river god who transformed from man to bull to serpent. This work and two others in the case are attributed to an anonymous artist who carved two large relief scenes depicting the Early Christian saint Sebastian assailed by Roman bowmen. This master's work is characterized by violent and exaggerated movements, extreme emotions, and a fanatical delineation of physical details.