Meet Power Woman Omphale, the queen of Lydia, whose story with Hercules is charged with eroticism, sex, cross-dressing, and Feminism! Following Hercules’ macho, reckless behavior, he was sent to Omphale’s court in Asia Minor for a year of “servitude”. This included being stripped of his signature Nemean lion hide and club and replaced with women's wardrobe and spindle - so that he may join the courtly women in spinning cloth. Guess who wields the lion skin and club? Omphale!
There is so much juicy intrigue swirling between these two to discover. Throughout art history, there is a cheeky undercurrent of his subjugation as a “boy toy” and rich revelry in their amicable reversal of roles!
A few favorites are “Omphale” by Byam Shaw (1914) in her full splendor below, “The Farnese Hercules” by Hendrick Goltzius (1592) @VAMuseum and “Hercules at the Feet of Omphale” by Gustave Courtois (1912).
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