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ACCORDING to Heathen mythology, Alcmena on the same day gave birth to Hercules and Iphiclus. Amphitryon, desirous of knowing which of the twins was his son, placed near their cradle two enormous serpents. At their appearance, Iphiclus was greatly terrified, and fled; but Hercules seized the reptiles, and strangled them. This trait of force and intrepidity, at so tender an age, confirmed beyond all doubt the celestial origin of the young hero.
In this manner the fact has been often represented by ancient artists. There still exists an antique painting, in which, contiguous to Hercules, are visible all the personages who witnessed the event: that is to say, Amphitryon, Alcmena, and Iphiclus, who seeks refuge in the arms of his nurse.
Augustino Caracci, in this pleasing picture, has banished all accessaries. In doing this he perhaps follows a received tradition, that the Serpents were conveyed by Juno into the cradle of Hercules, at a time when no one could fly to his assistance. Be that as it may, the artist has given to the demi-god an energy of expression and vigour of form, that makes him immediately recognized: his ruddy and animated colouring, so far from being a defect, is better suited to the subject than more delicate tints.
HERCULES STRANGLING THE SERPENTS.
From the boldness of design observable in this picture, many writers have attributed it to Annibal Caracci. We have preferred retaining the name of Augustino, to whom it is more generally ascribed. This artist bas, moreover, proved, in works which opened a field to his genius, that he could at times rise to that degree of majesty, which has stamped such value on the productions of his brother Annibal.
This picture formed part of the collection of the late Duke d' Orleans, which was sent into this country, and distributed among the Lovers of the Arts. It is unknown by what means it was preserved in France, and through what hands it passed before it was placed in the Museum. It is painted upon wood, about eight inches high and five wide.