The subject is based on one of the Labours of Hercules. The oracle of Apollo condemned Hercules to sell himself as a slave to Omphale, the Queen of Lydia, in order to redeem himself from a murder. Subdued by his tyrannical mistress, Hercules abandons his masculine attributes of the lion's pelt and mace to dress like a woman and arm himself with a spindle to spin wool. After having imposed many labours, the Queen frees Hercules in order to marry him. This myth of the virile hero yielding to the woman's whims by way of atonement for a crime was taken up by Sophocles, and Ovid in a humorous manner. This subject has often been associated with the representation of Omphale taking possession of Hercules's attributes, in a perfect reversal of the gender roles, such as in the bronze by Giovanni Battista Foggini (1652-1725) in the Victoria & Albert Museum (A.9-1956). The impressive rendering of Hercules's powerful musculature in the present marble is enhanced by the way in which light highlights his powerful anatomy. His physical strength contrasts with the manner in which he turns hesitantly towards the light footed Cupid. The varied treatment of the polished marble masterfully differentiates the surfaces: the smooth grain of the skin, the silky hair composed of large curls, the majestic mane of the lion's pelt, or even the delicate feathering of Cupid's wings. More than ten years after his morceau de réception, Vinache adapted the model at the end of his life and three additional marbles are known: the first dated 1752 (Christie's New York, 10 January 1995, lot 53), our marble and one formerly in the Karl Lagerfeld collection (Christie's Monaco, 28-29 April 2000, lot 16), both dated 1754. The presence of a bow as one of Hercule's attributes in the present marble indicates an important difference with the other known models. The existence of these various versions of Hercules Enslaved by Love emphasize the importance of the subject for Vinache and its success with contemporary collectors. It is possible that the sculptor may have been conceived this group of Hercules to be paired with another representing Omphale.
S. Lami, Dictionnaire des Sculpteurs de l'école française au XVIIIe siècle, t. 2, Paris, 1911 (rééd. 1970), pp. 397-397; J-R. Gaborit, G. Bresc-Bautier, Sculpture française II - Renaissance et temps modernes, vol. 2, Paris, 1998, p. 610; Eva Turbat, Jean-Joseph Vianche (1696-1754), mémoire de maîtrise, Paris-Sorbonne, 2001.
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