Greek Marble Reliefs: Labors of Herakles
Two ancient Greek marble reliefs, probably the metopes from the exterior of a temple. One depicts Herakles wrestling the Nemean Lion, the other Herakles lifting the Giant Antaeus off the ground.
Ca. 3rd - 2nd century BC.
Height (Herakles and Nemean Lion): 27 in. (68.6 cm)
Height (Herakles and Antaeus): 30 in. (76.2 cm)
The Twelve Labors of the hero Herakles were frequently depicted in Greek architectural decoration, especially on the metopes that adorned the architrave of temples. The most famous example appeared on the twelve metopes of the 5th century BC temple of Zeus at Olympia.
Herakles' first labor was to kill the Nemean Lion, a huge beast that terrorized the region around Nemea. The hero cornered the lion in its cave, wrestled with the beast, and pummeled it to death. Herakles then took the hide to make a lion-skin cape, one of his most distinctive attributes in Greek and Roman art.
Herakles also had many adventures while completing the Twelve Labors. During his journey to retrieve the golden apples of the Hesperides, his eleventh labor, the hero encountered Antaeus, a giant from Libya who forced travelers passing through his land to compete with him in a wrestling match to the death. Antaeus was invincible as long as he remained in contact with the earth, but Herakles discovered the giant's weakness and defeated him by lifting him from the earth and crushing him in the air.
Formerly in the collection of Jane Davis Doggett, Hobe Sound, Florida; acquired at Sotheby's New York, December 8, 1995; previously in a private collection.