ashmolean

Learning Resources

The Choice of Hercules

Paolo de' Matteis (1662 - 1728); oil on canvas 198.2 x 256.5 cm

The Romans renamed the Greek Hero Heracles, Hercules. Here we find Hercules facing a choice between pleasure and virtue. Heracles stands with two women who represent pleasure and virtue. Virtue stands on the left pointing up to a scene in the background that looks rocky, dark and challenging. Pleasure lies on the ground in an enticing way inviting Heracles to come and enjoy pleasure which can be represented by the jug of wine on the right.

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