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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



about 1751


Oil on canvas


H 96.5 x W 43.2 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1954

Work type



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The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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