About the Picture
This portrait is of a man who now reflects upon his own insanity. In Euripides' drama Heracles the returning king of Thebes
is tricked and driven into madness. In this state he mistakes his children and wife for the traitors who have taken his city
from him. Without true knowledge of whom he hurts, he sets about their murder. When the spirit of Athena brings him to his
senses, he is driven by guilt. How could a man commit a crime against those he loves? Suicide becomes his only source of
solace. However, in contradiction to the conventions of high attic tragedy, Heracles is persuaded by Theseus to face his
suffering through life. This continence is the central theme of the painting: a representation of the face of one who bears
an unbearable past.
Click on the image to see the picture in more detail.