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Storytelling in Miniature

Hans Sebald Beham
German, 1500–1550

Death of Hercules

Engraving, 1548
2 1/16 x 3 1/16 in.
Museum purchase, 1923.3198

Having been told the Hydra-contaminated blood of the centaur, Nessus, was a powerful love potion, Deianeira put it on the tunic of her unfaithful husband, Hercules. When Hercules wore the tunic, his flesh began to burn. The more he tried to stop the pain the worse it became. In desperation he instructed a friend to build a funeral pyre on which he placed himself. Upon the demigod’s death, that part of him that was divine was welcomed to Olympus, where he assumed his place among the gods as the son of Zeus.