"Hercules & Lichas" Engraving
"Hercules & Lichas" Engraving
So, in his frenzy, as he wandered there,
he chanced upon the trembling Lichas, crouched
in the close covert of a hollow rock.
Then in a savage fury he cried out,
“Was it you, Lichas, brought this fatal gift?
Shall you be called the author of my death?”
Lichas, in terror, groveled at his feet,
and begged for mercy--“Only let me live!”
But seizing on him, the crazed Hero whirled
him thrice and once again about his head,
and hurled him, shot as by a catapult,
into the waves of the Euboic Sea.
Lichas was innocent but due to a big misunderstanding
Hercules threw in him the sea.
While he was hanging in the air, his form
was hardened; as, we know, rain drops may first
be frozen by the cold air, and then change
to snow, and as it falls through whirling winds
may press, so twisted, into round hailstones:
even so has ancient lore declared that when
strong arms hurled Lichas through the mountain air
through fear, his blood was curdled in his veins.
No moisture left in him, he was transformed
into a flint-rock. Even to this day,
a low crag rising from the waves is seen
out of the deep Euboean Sea, and holds
the certain outline of a human form,
so surely traced, the wary sailors fear
to tread upon it, thinking it has life,
and they have called it Lichas ever since.
- Ovid. Metamorphoses, IX:211
Now why would Lichas bring Hercules a poisoned shirt? Well the story goes back all the way to when Hercules first met his wife, Deianira.
A wild centaur named Nessus was in the midst of attempting to kidnap Deianira and was ferrying her across the river Euenos. Heracles saved her by shooting the centaur with a poisoned arrow. As he lay dying, Nessus persuaded Deianira to take a sample of his blood, telling her that a potion of it mixed with olive oil would ensure that Heracles would never again be unfaithful.
*I don't know why Deianira would believe her kidnapper, but it's possible Stockholm Syndrome was something the Greek gods and their playmates had in common with modern day mortals.*
Deianira believed his words fervently and kept a little of the potion by her at all times. Heracles had sex with everything that moved throughout their marriage but then he fell in love with someone else (Lole) and Deianira just could not deal with this development. Deianira feared that her husband would leave her forever, so she smeared some of the centaur blood on Heracles' famous lionskin shirt. Heracles' servant, Lichas, brought him the shirt and he put it on. The centaur's toxic blood burned Heracles terribly, and eventually, he threw himself into a funeral pyre. In despair, Deianira committed suicide by hanging herself or with a sword.
This gorgeous engraving is actually an early 19th century study of the famous late 18th century sculpture by Antonio Canova which depicts Heracles in the midst of flinging his servant out to sea. I've included an image of the famous sculpture by Canova here as well.
This print was in the private collection of Salvatore Grippi, a New York School painter, who worked and exhibited alongside the likes of de Kooning, Nevelson, and Kline during the heyday of Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s. In 1968, Grippi established the art department at Ithaca College, where he taught until 1991. . He was a significant figure in postwar abstraction and his work from this period has graced the walls of MoMA, the Whitney, andthe Met but has seldom appeared at auction.
Condition / Notes: This piece displays nicely showing only a typical range of age and wear indications (toning / soiling)