|Died||7 March 1766 (aged 63)|
|Occupation||Painter and sculptor|
Lelli was a pupil of the painter Giovanni Pietro Zanotti, but he also gravitated towards sculptural work. He excelled in the study of the anatomy of the human body as well as painting. Starting in 1742 he helped prepare artistic anatomical wax displays at the University of Bologna. The wax modeler and anatomist Giovanni Manzolini worked as his assistant from 1743. Manzolini resigned in late 1746 after three years. He felt bitterly that Lelli had deprived him of recognition for his greater knowledge of anatomy and anatomical sculpture. Nicolo Toselli was another of Lelli's pupils.
In 1746 Lelli became a member of both the Bolognese art society, Accademia Clementina, and the science society, Istituto delle scienze. He had completed many medals for the local Mint. A few pictures are extant, including a Virgin and child with St. Anthony of Padua and St. Clara for the church of Sant' Andrea delle Scuole at Bologna; and a St. Fidèle for the church of the Cappuccini at Piacenza. He was an eminent teacher of design, and in 1759 became director of the Academy at Bologna, the city where he died. He has also left some engravings, such as Hagar and Ishmael. A posthumous book with a few engravings, titled Anatomia esterna del corpo umano (External Anatomy of the Human Body) was published in Bologna.
- Bryan, Michael (1889). Walter Armstrong & Robert Edmund Graves (ed.). Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, Biographical and Critical (Volume II L-Z). York St. #4, Covent Garden, London; Original from Fogg Library, Digitized May 18, 2007: George Bell and Sons. p. 39.CS1 maint: location (link)
- S. Falabella, «LELLI (Lellj), Ercole». In: Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Roma: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana, Vol. LXIX, 2005 (on-line)
- Exhibit of Anatomic Art
- "Giovanni Manzolini". Universita degli studi de Cagliari. Archived from the original on 2012-05-10. Retrieved 2013-01-13.
- Messbarger, Rebecca (2010-12-15). The Lady Anatomist: The Life and Work of Anna Morandi Manzolini. University of Chicago Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-226-52081-0. Retrieved 2013-01-13.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Annali della città di Bologna dalle sua origine al 1796, compiled by Salvatore Muzzi; Tipi de S. Tommaso d'Aquino, Bologna (1846): Volume 8, page 748.