Hercules battling the Minotaur
The Cretan Bull and the Minotaur
The Cretan Bull appears in many stories as a creature sent by Poseidon to King Minos. Minos was meant to sacrifice it to the god, but did not do so because of the bull’s beauty. Poseidon, enraged, made Minos´ wife Pasiphaë fall in love with the bull, with whom she copulated thanks to the bull’s concealment inside a wooden cow made by Daedalus. The offspring was the monstrous Minotaur. It was Theseus who slew the Minotaur, although the feat is attributed in this tapestry to Hercules. This suggests a confusion between the two stories which share common characters.
The original tale of the Seventh Labour
The tapestry is meant to depict what is usually considered the Seventh Labour of Hercules: to capture the Cretan Bull and return to Greece with it. However, in this tapestry the story has been blended with the aforementioned story of Theseus.
The despair of the conquered
Covered with the skin of the Nemean lion, Hercules appears unassailable with his mace, the only weapon which he created himself (his other weapons were provided by the gods). Despite the violence of the action, Hercules appears static and only the Minotaur shows the despair of a someone defeated, conscious of imminent death.
Series The Labours of Hercules
Second tapestry in the extant series
Manufacture Willem Dermoyen, Brussels, c. 1528
Fabric Silk and wool
Size 361 x 417 cm
Location Royal Palace of Madrid
Origin Collection of Philip II
On display Royal Armoury