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Maso da San Friano - Ercole e il leone.jpg

Tommaso Manzuoli, called

Maso da San Friano

Florence, 1531 - 1571

The episode is taken from the life of Hercules and describes the first of his twelve labours. A common theme in 15th and 16th century Italy, the figure of Hercules and his labours were often associated with the idea of fortitude, one of the seven virtues, enabling subtle and erudite connections between the Christian faith and the ancient pagan world. 

Maso da San Friano - Hercules - Flavio Gianassi

Hercules and the Nemean lion


Oil on panel, 48 x 36.5 cm 



Paris, Ader Picard Tajan, 5 December 1990, lot 2

Private collection

Maso da San Friano - Ercole e il leone - Flavio Gianassi

Here, the young Hercules, naked, with only a rose drape on his left shoulder, is represented in the final act of his labour, the moment he strangles the Nemean lion. An arid and mountainous landscape surrounds him; in the background a glimpse of a sailing ship, preceded by a small human figure, most likely Hercules himself in the act of carrying a column, his tenth labour.

As suggested by Carlo Falciani, our painting is comparable to a detail from The Allegory of Fortitude, held at the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence.

Tommaso Manzuoli was born in San Frediano in 1531 and was nick named Maso da San Friano due to the origin of his birth, as recorded by Vincenzo Borghini in his Riposo. “He learnt his art – says Borghini – from the painter Carlo Portelli da Loro; but he far outstripped his master”. According to Vasari, who worked with him on a number of Medici commissions, Maso da San Friano was also taught by Pier Francesco di Jacopo Foschi, who was himself a pupil of Andrea del Sarto. Today Maso is recognised as one of the chief exponents of a Tuscan revival of the proto-Mannerist styles of del Sarto and Pontormo around the 1560s and 70s.

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