Hercules suffers a major disgrace. He’s poor. A fit of madness brings him to kill his own family. When he recovers sanity, guilt afflicts him. The Delphic oracle offers to purify him by dispossessing himself of everything, even his freedom. Queen Omphale of Lydia buys him as a slave, and Hercules shall be her female companion. Attired with jewellery and delicate dress, he will learn to handle the needle just as he used to handle the club. Omphale is demanding but Hercules progresses, also on her heart.
However, history is a chest with treasures we spill on the floor. His greatest erections and the wars merge into a jingling cacophony, covering the past by successive coats. Ovid, Seneca, Rubens will not forget this romance. But we will have to wait until the end of the 18th century to see the return of Hercules from the great exhumed cities, painted by Hubert Robert. Society unties itself from the heavy pomp to preserve the dignified simplicity of the sculptures. Look at his face between the marbles of the Tuileries Garden ! His face is afflicted by melancholia ! His club is nothing but a crutch for his heavy body ! And for good reason. Like his sculptural predecessors, Hercules is gone for Georges III’s England, caught between the heritage of the Grand Siècle and the opening on the sublime landscapes of the romanticism. He’s hosted by charity in the sumptuous residence of Sir Thomas Bertram. He’s neglected, nay mistreated, but he will perform an unexpected ascent, and this evolution seems to be based only on his own merits, his rigour, his infallible judgement, his independent spirit.