The Choice of Hercules, c.1831
Graphite on brown paper, 17.5 x 21.7 cm
This sketch is a preparatory drawing for the oil painting of the same name, for which Maclise won the gold medal for history painting at the Royal Academy. Maclise’s painting is an exercise in classical idealism and the conventions of history painting. Hercules is shown at centre of the composition, gazing longingly at Virtue while Vice clings to his shoulder and attempts to seduce him; Hercules must choose between sacred and profane love. The prize included the opportunity to study art in Italy for three years; however Maclise did not take this up as he was more intent on launching his career in London.