Hercules Killing Cacus

A work made of chiaroscuro woodcut from three blocks in black, yellow and olive-green, on ivory laid paper.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of chiaroscuro woodcut from three blocks in black, yellow and olive-green, on ivory laid paper.

Date:

1588

Artist:

Hendrick Goltzius
Dutch, 1558-1617

About this artwork

To make a chiaroscuro woodcut, an artist uses a separate woodblock for printing each different color of ink. Often, as was the case for both of these prints, the image was rendered primarily in a line block, usually in black. The additional colors—together with the color of the paper itself—provide more definition to the forms and more dramatic light effects.
The virtuoso graphic artist Hendrick Goltzius used the chiaroscuro woodcut technique to great effect in his depiction of Hercules completing the 10th of his 12 labors: the capture of the cattle of Geryon. To accomplish this feat, he had to vanquish the giant Cacus. Goltzius shows the moment just before Hercules violently clubs the giant, which is made especially dramatic by the vivid conjunction of yellow and green.
Although Goltzius’s advances in line engraving found many followers, few artists pursued his equally original exploration of chiaroscuro woodcuts printed from one line block and multiple tone blocks. The largest, and one of the earliest of the chiaroscuro woodcuts from Goltzius’s workshop, this dramatic print is also the only one to have a date cut into the block. Here Hercules slays Cacus, a cattle thief, in his cave in the Aventine hills.

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Prints and Drawings

Artist

Hendrick Goltzius

Title

Hercules Killing Cacus

Origin

Netherlands

Date

1588

Medium

Chiaroscuro woodcut from three blocks in black, yellow and olive-green, on ivory laid paper

Dimensions

410 × 332 mm (image/plate/sheet trimmed to platemark)

Credit Line

Gift of Alfred E. Hamill

Reference Number

1930.795

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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