NGV National Gallery of Victoria


Luca Cambiaso
Italian 1527–1585, worked in Spain 1583–85
Hercules shooting his bow (Ercole tirando il suo arco) 1544–50
pen and brown ink and brown wash over black chalk on brown paper
37.5 x 18.6 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
Fernández Durán Bequest, 1931 (D02990)
Countless sixteenth-century artists, including Correggio, Jacopo Tintoretto and the Carracci, carefully copied Raphael’s work and that of other leading Italian artists, such as Michelangelo. They used these studies as a starting point for their own endeavours. Within only a few years of Raphael’s death, however, the idealised forms of the Renaissance were superseded by the elegantly artificial or overly exaggerated constructs of Mannerism, a trend stimulated by Michelangelo.

Mannerist artists reacted against the strict naturalism of the Renaissance, revelling in the capacity to push illusionism beyond the limits of logic and reason. Impossibly elongated and exaggerated forms typified the new style as spatial relationships were deliberately disrupted to disturb and unsettle the eye. Luca Cambiaso’s overly muscled Hercules is a typically bold and imaginative rendering of a god. As the sixteenth century progressed, artists used their unfettered imaginations to induce physical and emotional responses from the viewer. Spectacle and sensation had left realism in their wake.