The J. Paul Getty Museum

Hercules Pendant

Object Details


Hercules Pendant


Unknown maker, French




Paris, France (Place Created)


about 1540


Gold, enamel (white, blue and black), and a baroque pearl

Object Number:



6 × 5.4 cm (2 3/8 × 2 1/8 in.)

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Object Description

This type of jewel was worn as a pendant, suspended from a chain around the neck or pinned to the sleeve of a garment. Depicting Hercules raising the pillars at Cadiz, this pendant was presumably made for a man, with the wearer reflecting the symbolic qualities of physical strength and courage of its subject. According to different accounts, Hercules either raised two mountains as monuments to his progress or split one mountain in two, forming the Straits of Gibraltar to discourage sea monsters from entering the Mediterranean.

Rarely portrayed, this subject was a favorite of the French king François I. The style of this pendant is especially close to that of artists working for François at his palace of Fontainebleau, particularly Benvenuto Cellini, the most prominent goldsmith there. Its unusual subject, sumptuous material, and exquisite workmanship support the idea that that this jewel was a royal commission.

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  • The Field Museum (Chicago), June 28, 2002 to January 5, 2003
Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen (November 13, 2001 to February 3, 2002)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), November 13, 2001 to February 3, 2002
Traversing the Globe through Illuminated Manuscripts (January 22 to June 26, 2016)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), January 22 to June 26, 2016