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Farnese Hercules

Farnese Hercules
A large marble statue of Hercules resting on his club.
Artist Glykon, reproduced from the original by Lysippos
Year c. 216 AD (4th century BCE for original)
Type Statue
Material Marble
Subject Hercules
Dimensions 3.17 m (10.5 ft)
Location Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples

The Farnese Hercules is an ancient statue of Hercules, probably an enlarged copy made in the early third century AD and signed by Glykon,[1] from an original by Lysippos (or one of his circle) that would have been made in the fourth century BC.[2] The enlarged copy was made for the Baths of Caracalla in Rome (dedicated in 216 AD), where the statue was recovered in 1546,[3] and is now in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples. The heroically-scaled Hercules is one of the most famous sculptures of antiquity,[4] and has fixed the image of the mythic hero in the European imagination. It is shown in the 1954 film Journey to Italy along with the Farnese Bull.


  • History 1
  • List of other ancient copies 2
  • Later Copies 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


The rediscovered statue quickly made its way into the collection of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, grandson of Pope Paul III. Alessandro Farnese was well placed to form one of the greatest collections of classical sculpture that has been assembled since Antiquity. It stood for generations in its own room at Palazzo Farnese, Rome, where the statue was surrounded by frescoed depictions of the hero's mythical feats that were created by Annibale Carracci and his studio, executed in the 1590s. The Farnese statue was moved to Naples in 1787 with most of the Farnese Collection and is now displayed in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale there.

Late Classical Greek sculpture, created through the subtractive method, found at Foligno (Musée du Louvre)

The type was well known in antiquity: a Hellenistic or Roman bronze reduction, found at Foligno is conserved in the Musée du Louvre. A small Roman marble copy can be seen in the Museum of the Ancient Agora, Athens (see illustration).

The Farnese Hercules is a massive marble statue, following a lost original cast in bronze through a method called lost wax casting. It depicts a muscular, yet weary, Hercules leaning on his club, which has the skin of the Nemean lion draped over it. In myths about Heracles, killing the lion was his first task. He has just performed one of the last of The Twelve Labours, which is suggested by the apples of the Hesperides he holds behind his back.

The sculpture has been reassembled and restored by degrees. According to a letter of

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons

External links

  • Bober, Phyllis; Rubinstein, Ruth (1986). Renaissance Artists and Antique Sculpture. 
  • Haskell, Francis; Penny, Nicholas (1981). Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture, 1500–1900. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 229–32.  Catalogue no. 46.
  • Robertson, Martin (1975). A History of Greek Art. Cambridge. 
  • Albardonedo Freire, Antonio J. (1999A). "Carlos V en la Alameda de Sevilla". Actas de las IX Jornadas Nacionales de Historia Militar (Sevilla. Cátedra General Castaños. Capitanía General de la Región Militar del Sur) (9): 13–18.  
  • Albardonedo Freire, Antonio J. (1999B). "Las Trazas y Construcciones de la Alameda de Hercules". Laboratorio de Arte 11: 135–165. 
  • Albardonedo Freire, Antonio (2002). El Urbanismo de Sevilla durante el reinado de Felipe II. Sevilla: Guadalquivir Ediciones. pp. 191–208.  
  1. ^ The sculpture bears the incised signature of Glykon, in Greek. Glykon, whether working in Rome or Athens, is not otherwise known.
  2. ^ Bieber 1961; Robertson 1975
  3. ^ The chronicler Ulisse Aldrovandi, 1556.
  4. ^ Haskell & Penny 1981, pp. 229–32
  5. ^ Haskell & Penny 1981, p. 229
  6. ^ Haskell & Penny 1981
  7. ^ Albardonedo Freire 1999A; Albardonedo Freire 1999B; Albardonedo Freire 2002
  8. ^ "Lysippos, Farnese Hercules".  
External video
Lysippos, Farnese Hercules, Smarthistory[8]


André Le Nôtre placed a full-size gilded version against the skyline at the far end of the main vista at Vaux-le-Vicomte. That at Versailles is a copy by Jean Cornu, 1684–1686. In Scotland a rare copy in lead, of the first half of the eighteenth century, is sited incongruously in the central Highlands, overlooking the recently restored Hercules Garden in the grounds of Blair Castle. Wealthy collectors were able to afford one of the numerous bronze replicas created in sizes for table-top display.

After rediscovery of the Farnese Hercules, copies appeared in sixteenth- and eighteenth-century gardens throughout Europe. During construction of the Alameda de Hercules (1574) in Seville, the oldest public garden preserved in Europe, at its entrance were installed two columns from a Roman temple, elements of a building still preserved in the Mármoles, an unquestionable sign of admiration for the Roman archaeological sites. On them were placed two sculptures by Diego de Pesquera, in 1574, recognizing Hercules as founder of the city, and Julius Caesar, restorer of Híspalis. The first was a copy of the Farnese Hercules, nearly the monumental size of the original.[7] At Wilhelmshöhe, near Kassel, a colossal version 8.5 m high produced by Johann Jacob Anthoni, 1713–1717, has become a symbol for the city.

Later Copies

  • Hercules, 2nd century AD, Roman copy, Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
  • The “Weary Herakles” is a Roman marble statue that was excavated in 1980 in Perge, Turkey, now in Antalya museum.
  • Colossal statue of Hercules, uncovered at the baths in Hippo Regius (Annaba), Algeria.
  • Heavily broken headless statue found in theatre of Perge.
  • Broken headless torso of 2nd or 3rd century AD, in Museum of Saint-Raymond in Toulouse.
  • Statuette of 2nd century AD, in Detroit Institute of Arts.
  • Bronze statuette with silver-inlaid eyes of 40 - 70 AD, Getty Villa.

The prominently sited statue was well liked by the Ancient Romans, and copies have been found in Roman palaces and gymnasiums: another, coarser copy, stood in the courtyard of Palazzo Farnese; one with the feigned (but probably ancient) inscription "Lykippos" has stood in the court of Palazzo Pitti, Florence, since the sixteenth century. Ancient copies of the statue include:

List of other ancient copies

The sculpture was admired from the start, reservations about its exaggerated musculature only surfacing in the later eighteenth century.[6] Napoleon remarked to Antonio Canova that its omission from the museum he accumulated in Paris was the most important gap in the collection. More than once, the sculpture was crated and made ready for shipment to Paris before the Napoleonic regime fled Naples.

The Farnese Hercules, engraved by Hendrick Goltzius, 1591, two onlookers give scale

Hercules is caught in a rare moment of repose. Leaning on his knobby club which is draped with the pelt of the Nemean Lion, he holds the apples of the Hesperides, but conceals them behind his back cradled in his right hand. Many engravings and woodcuts spread the fame of the Farnese's Hercules. By 1562 the find was already included in the set of engravings for Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae ("Mirror of Rome's Magnificence") and connoisseurs, artists, and tourists gaped at the original, which stood in the courtyard of the Palazzo Farnese, protected under the arcade. In 1590–91, during his trip to Rome, Hendrik Goltzius sketched the statue in the palazzo courtyard. Later (in 1591) Goltzius recorded the less-common rear view, in a bravura engraving (illustration, right), which emphasizes the already exaggerated muscular form with swelling and tapering lines that flow over the contours. The young Rubens made quick sketches of the planes and massing of the statue of Hercules. Before photography, prints were the only way to put the image into many hands.

, in his Italian Journey, recounts his differing impressions upon seeing the Hercules with each set of legs, however, marvelling at the clear superiority of the original ones. Goethe [5]

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