Greek myth of Hercules  At least 2,600 years old
*This image is featured in Steven Heller's "The Illustration Idea Book: Inspiration from 50 Masters”

"The same narratives, in the form of myths, folk tales, and fairy tales, have been illustrated in different modes for centuries. The article for which Anastasia Beltyukova created this illustration argued that some of these classic stories, including Beauty and the Beast, Jack and the Beanstalk and Runplestilyskin, may be much older than previously believed, even older than ancient myths and biblical stories.
This illustration, one of the seven Beltyukova made for the article, represents the myth of Hercules (Herakles), which originated in ancient Greece and is now believed to be at least 2,600 years old. With a stylized yet menacing quality, it depicts the hero fighting the many-headed Hydra.
"Most of Hercules labours involved conflict', notes Beltyukova, - and creating conflict makes an illustration more interesting. Here the clenched, contracted gestures and grimacing expressions impart a tangible sense of tension, a marked feeling of claustrophobia and danger that is heightened by the tightly enclosed perspective.
Beltyukova's influences include the Russian/Soviet artist Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, Russian Constructivism, analytical painting in general, and illustrators of the Russian avant-garde. She explains that she wanted her images to reflect their era, but at the same time be quite modern, "so [in this illustration] I meant to have an ancient Greece reference in the colour and style, but not too literal." She also wanted to make the image slightly erotic to express the beauty of this focused, strong fighting man and the sensuality of the fight, of Hydra's embrace and of Hercules' dangerous dance with her. The final illustration achieves al these aims, bringing together a sense of danger, strength, sensuality, connectedness and, most significantly, conflict."

Steven Heller
Nativity story in the Bible  About 2,000 years old
The Blacksmith and the Devil   5,000+ years old
Beauty and the Beast  4,000+ years old
Rumplestiltskin   4,000+ years old
Jack and the Beanstalk  At least 5,000 years old
Egyptian myth of Osiris   At least 4,400 years old
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