BBC screen shot

Russian President Vladimir Putin certainly knows his best angles and how to play to the camera, and he’s staged many spectacles that have stretched the outer limits of credulity in a series of memorable photo-ops since the global spotlight was first trained on him.

We’ve seen him shirtless in a bracing array of outdoorsy settings: fishing, horseback riding, swimming and packing heat in Siberia (images that provoked the venerable Associated Press to drop its usual hard-news reportage style in favor of dubbing him “K-G-Beefcake“), and frolicking with dolphins.

He’s also appeared as Vlad the Whaler (well, he shot harmless darts for research purposes, but still), the Tiger Wrangler, the Arm Wrestler: Republican Congressman Edition, the Arm Wrestler: Young Russian Woman Edition, the Polar Bear Embracer, the Amphora Discoverer and the Wildfire Extinguisher, not to mention many other macho poses that are helpfully mentioned here.

All of this is to say that if one were to want to portray Putin in a heroic manner, he’s already proven his mastery in that department. So, a group of Russian supporters who had just that goal in mind had to get extra-creative in order to pay him a special tribute on the occasion of his 62nd birthday. They reached into the realm of the archetypal for their purpose, giving Putin the mythological treatment in a series of artworks in which he is cast in the role of … Hercules (via New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer):

The exhibit was held on Monday by members of a pro-Putin Facebook group in Moscow’s “Red October” showspace, formerly the site of a chocolate factory by the same name. Putin turns 62 on Tuesday.

“Interestingly, the events of the ancient legends about the mythological hero Hercules can be relayed onto our days, when the three-headed dog Cerberus reminds us of the USA, annihilation of the Stymphalian Birds — of stopping the air raids in Syria and the cleaning of the Augean stables is fighting corruption,” the organizers wrote on Facebook, apparently in earnest.

The BBC’s Steve Rosenberg adopted a similarly perplexed tone in his own report from the Moscow gallery. Not that the American public hasn’t engaged in a little politically inflected hero worship of its own, say, sometime around the 2008 presidential campaign, for example.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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