18th-Century Swedish School

Hercules Slaying The Dragon Ladon

18th-Century Swedish School

Hercules Slaying The Dragon Ladon

This mid-18th-century Swedish oil painting depicts the ancient Greek hero, Hercules, slaying the serpentine dragon Ladon in the Garden of the Hesperides.

It’s a remarkable piece and initially rather tricky to decipher due to its dark qualities. On the right, there’s cattle including a particularly vicious-looking bull. While on the left, we see a muscular figure grappling with a demonic dragon, which appears to be wrapped around a desolate tree.

It relates to Hercules (or Heracles), the most revered of the Greek heroes, and his ‘twelve labours’, this being number eleven. The twelve labours were a series of perilous tasks undertaken in the service of King Eurystheus and its theme has often been portrayed by artists throughout the centuries.

Labour eleven involved stealing three golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides, which was guarded by the hideous and fearsome serpent, Ladon. There are variations on how he achieved such a feat with one version involving a tense negotiation with the Titan Atlas. But here, we see a simpler ending, whereby Ladon is slayed by brute force and what appears to be a bear hug.

We acquired the piece in Sweden and its origins are unknown. Perhaps it formed one of twelve works.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 14½” x 17½” / 37cm x 45cm
Year of creation: c. 1750
Labels & Inscriptions: Partial inscription on reverse.
Provenance: Private collection, Sweden.
Condition: For decorative reasons, we’ve left this piece in ‘as found’ condition. Fine craquelure but the paint is stable. Canvas relined. Minor losses. 

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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