Spanning the Hercules Hall in colourful splendour, the fresco of the painter and architect Andrea Pozzo (1642–1709) depicts the exploits of Hercules and his admittance to Olympus. A native of Trento, the painter was summoned to Vienna by imperial command in 1702. After redesigning and decorating the interior of the Jesuit Church in Vienna he embarked on the frescoing of the Great Hall of the Liechtenstein summer palace for Prince Johann Adam Andreas I von Liechtenstein in 1704, completing the commission that was to be his last major work in 1708.
The decoration of this room culminates in its ceiling fresco. Here Pozzo depicts the story of Hercules from his infancy, when he strangled the snakes put in his cradle by Juno, via his victory over the Nemean lion and the other monsters, the overcoming of Antaeus and the Amazons, his humiliation by Omphale and his suicide on the funeral pyre graced by the hovering presence of Hebe to his allegorical triumph on being admitted to Olympus. Inserted between these episodes and painted as imitations of bronze reliefs (grisailles) are scenes depicting Hercules and Deianeira, Mercury delivering a sword to Hercules and Hercules bidding farewell to Molorchus of Cleonai before setting off to kill the Nemean lion. The grandiose pantheon at the centre of the vault leads the eye upwards in an illusion of unending celestial space, representing the end of all earthly travails.
Pozzo laboured on this fresco, the most important work he uted north of the Alps, for four years, certifying the final account on 22 October 1708. Pozzo’s ceiling fresco is the late work of a virtuoso artist who knew exactly how to achieve his artistic aims with the greatest economy of means. The figures were traced in charcoal onto the fresh plaster directly over the quadratura. The coloration ranges from the brightest of hues in the earthly zones to subdued, earthy palettes in the distant celestial spheres. It is rare for a fresco to have survived in such excellent condition with all its original qualities preserved right down to the subtlest nuances.
Zum Seitenanfang  
Andrea Pozzo
Ceiling fresco in the Hercules Hall of the Liechtenstein summer palace, 1704/1708
Inv.-No. o.Inv.
Related themes
Artwork of the Month / January – December 2009
The following leaflets from the LIECHTENSTEIN MUSEUM in Focus series are available:
New acquisitions >>