Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts in Art History and Visual Culture



First Advisor

Dr. Erin Sutherland

Second Advisor

Dr. Esperanca Camara

Third Advisor

Dr. Steven Cody


During the late fifteenth century, a painting was displayed in the Palazzo Medici, home to one of Florence’s most influential families. The painting was commissioned by Lorenzo de’ Medici from one of his favorite artists, Antonio Pollaiuolo. The painting, entitled Hercules and Deianira, portrays a scene from the Herculean myth. The composition depicts the hero Hercules, who can be seen aiming an arrow at the centaur Nessus, who is carrying of Hercules’ new bride, Deianira. Throughout his life, Lorenzo admired the mythological hero and would often acquire compositions depicting him as a way of representing his own heroic qualities. However, it is ironic that Lorenzo would ask for a commission depicting this scene, as it is the starting point of Hercules’ demise. Lorenzo, as a well-educated man, would have been familiar with the story of the son of Zeus and would have been aware of this fact. The question remains, of all the heroic feats that he could have commissioned Pollaiuolo? What is the message he wanted to convey with this composition? The Hercules and Deianira composition shows Lorenzo as a strong and capable ruler, who can overcome any form of opposition for the greater good of the city he has sworn to protect.