Hercules and the Hydra; wielding a torch he attacks the winged, multi-headed Hydra in rocky landscape, a hawk attacks a heron in the sky

Artist: Cristofano di Michele Martini (Il Robetta) (Italian, Florence 1462–after 1535 Florence)

Artist: After Antonio Pollaiuolo (Italian, Florence ca. 1432–1498 Rome)

Date: ca. 1500–1520

Medium: Engraving

Dimensions: Sheet (Trimmed): 9 5/16 × 3 3/8 in. (23.7 × 8.5 cm)

Classification: Prints

Credit Line: Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1927

Accession Number: 27.20.2


The son of the God 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 Hydra's wounds with fire, the hero was able to prevent two new heads from sprouting each time one was cut off. Robetta also made an engraving after Pollaiulo's 'Hercules and Antaeus', the pendant painting to 'Hercules and the Hydra'.