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This preparatory sketch for a ceiling shows a sky with classical figures arranged on clouds. At the top is Jupiter – the chief deity – holding a crown and accompanied by an eagle clutching a thunderbolt (his attributes). Beside him is Juno, his wife. Below them to the left are Venus and Cupid, and Bacchus reclining. To their right, Minerva presents a woman holding a spear to Jupiter: she may be a personification of Spain. Lower and to the centre, Hercules is defeating the multi-headed water monster Hydra with his club. His prominent position is due to his association with the Spanish monarchy – one of Hercules’s labours was to place columns in Gibraltar, marking the limit of what would later become the Spanish Empire.

The National Gallery, London

London


Date

about 1751

Medium

Oil on canvas

Measurements

H 96.5 x W 43.2 cm

Accession number

NG6229

Acquisition method

Bought, 1954

Work type

Painting


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The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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