Toledo Museum Home

Storytelling in Miniature

Heinrich Aldegrever
German, 1502–about 1561

Hercules Killing the Dragon, from “The Labors of Hercules”

Engraving, 1550
4 1/2 x 2 5/8 in.
Museum purchase, 1923.3211

Like Hercules Squeezing Antaeus to Death, this print is also based on the 11th Labor, the Apples of the Hesperides. In order to raid the sacred orchard of the Hesperides, Hercules had to do two things: convince Atlas, a Titan charged with holding up the heavens, to help him (in Greek mythology, Titans were gods who ruled before Zeus and the Olympians); and kill the vicious hundred-headed dragon Ladon, which guarded Hera’s golden apples. When Hercules had achieved the latter, and Atlas was assured that the dragon was dispatched, Hercules took over the duty of holding the heavens as Atlas secured three apples.

Perhaps because of the complexity of engraving a hundred-headed dragon, Aldegrever chose to show a fearsome single-headed monster instead.