'Hercules and Dejanira' from volume "Mezzotintoes by Smith...
'Hercules and Dejanira' from volume "Mezzotintoes by Smith Vol III" 1709
bound volume (dimensions 54 x 38 x 7 cms) inscr. on plate b.c. "Hercules & Dejanira / Ex Tabula Titiani. J. Smith fecit Londini. 1709."; inscr. on page t.r. hand-written in brown ink "4" CRE SMITH, John; (English; 1652-1743) AFTER TITIAN (Tiziano Vecelli); (Italian; 1480/85-1576) Part of William Hunter's original bequest, this is one of three volumes which together contain 488 mezzotints, almost all made or published by John Smith. About two thirds are portraits of eminent late Stuart, early Hanoverian persons. The remaining third are subject prints after a wide range of artists and subjects, from mythological and religious scenes after old Italian and Dutch and Flemish masters such as Titian and Rubens to fancy subjects after contemporary French and English painters.
Instrumental in raising the standard of mezzotint portraits, Smith was the first British printmaker to gain a European reputation, and examples of his work were essential for any serious first half of the 18th century European print collection. Hunter's set of volumes is a rare surviving example of a comprehensive collection of mezzotints compiled in the 1730s.
This print belongs to Smith's set of nine after a paintings series 'The Loves of the Gods' then attributed to Titian and belonging to great collector and patron of the arts, John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough. Hercules, Greek God of strength, is seen with his attributes of a lion's skin and a club. Deianeira holds the tail of a bull representing her other suitor, the shape-changing Achelous whom Hercules overcame.