Hercules Strangling the Nemean Lion

As punishment for slaying his own family in a fit of madness, Hercules was sentenced to perform twelve labors—the first of which was to skin the ferocious Nemean lion. After repeated failures, Hercules discarded his weapons and wrestled the beast to the ground. In this drawing, Rubens depicts the two figures locked in combat. Several pentimenti, or visible alterations, indicate where the artist redrew the animal’s right leg and the hero’s back in search for the most effective portrayal of the mythical fight.


P. J. Mariette (L. 1852);* Sir Thomas Lawrence (L. 2445); Colnaghi, London (bought by Robert Sterling Clark, 1919).    

*"L." refers to F. Lugt, Les Marques de collections de dessins et d'estampes, Amsterdam, 1921 and Supplément, The Hague, 1956.

Peter Paul Rubens

Flemish, 1577–1640

Hercules Strangling the Nemean Lion

c. 1620

Red, yellow and black chalk, brush and red ink, and gouache on paper

12 1/2 x 19 1/16 in. (31.8 x 48.4 cm)

Acquired by Sterling Clark, 1919




Haverkamp-Begemann, Egbert, Standish D. Lawder, and Charles W. Talbot, Jr. Drawings from the Clark Art Institute: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Robert Sterling Clark Collection of European and American Drawings, Sixteenth Through Nineteenth Centuries, at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown. 2 volumes. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964.