Aegidius Sadeler II (1570 - 1629)
Hercules spinning (on the left) and Omphale
Engraving, c. 1600
Hollstein (Dutch & Flemish) 106, Vol. XXI-XXII; Wurzbach 68
After the Flemish painter, Bartholomeus Spranger (1546 - 1611).
Image Size : 41.2 x 31.3cm (16.2 x 12.3in)
Sheet Size : 47 x 34.7cm (18.5 x 13.7in)
According to legend, Omphale was queen of the kingdom of Lydia in Asia Minor and widow of Timolus, the oak-clad mountain king who was gored to death by a bull. After his death she continued to reign on her own and, in her best-known myth, became the mistress of the hero Hercules who was sentenced to a year of servitude to her as punishment for murder.
Over the centuries, this is a scenario that has offered writers and artists opportunities to explore erotic themes, inherently a comic inversion of gender roles of the period, with references to Hercules being forced to do women's work and even wear women's clothing.
In Sadeler's engraving, Hercules is forced to hold a basket of wool while Omphale and her maidens do their spinning. Adding further salt to the wound, Omphale wears the skin of the Nemean Lion and carries Heracles' olive-wood club. After some time, Omphale freed Hercules and took him as her husband.
Egidius Sadeler or Aegidius Sadeler was an engraver from the Southern Netherlands active at the court of Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor in Prague. He was born in Antwerp in a Sadeler family of engravers. Impressions of this subject are held in museum collections around the world, including the Rijksmuseum in The Netherlands.