Modelled in 1575-1576, Giambologna’s Nessus and Deianeira proved to be one of Giambologna’s most popular compositions. Deianeira, Hercules’ wife, was seized by the Centaur Nessus while crossing a river and rescued by her hero-husband, who slew the Centaur. Greek myth tells of the poignant consequences of the event, in which Deianeira used Nessus’ blood as a love potion on her unfaithful husband, unaware that the poison within would destroy his mortal form. Giambologna created at least three signed bronze versions of the model, indicating the high esteem in which it was held by both the artist and his patrons.
C. Avery, Giambologna. The Complete Sculpture, Oxford, 1987, pp. 144-145