about 30 B.C.–A.D. 70
Greek, Etruscan, & Roman Bronzes (MFA), no. 106; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 120 (additional published references); Highlights: Classical Art (MFA), p. 036-037.
Height: 101 cm (39 3/4 in.)
Medium or Technique
Classical Roman Gallery (Gallery 213)
Herakles wears the skin of the Nemean lion, which he killed as one of his earliest labors. On his head he wears a diadem, an emblem of distinction or of victory. In his left hand, he originally held a club, which had been inserted into a hole formed by his closed fingers and which projected down at an angle. Herakles reaches out his right hand as if to grasp something. The way the arm is extended directly forward is probably a Roman alteration of the Hellenistic design. The significance of Herakles’ extended hand is not entirely clear, but he may be reaching for a cup of wine (Herakles is often shown holding a wine cup), although there is no trace of a cup here. He might also be reaching for the golden apples that he took from the garden of the Hesperides. Both the wine and the apples symbolized the end of his trials and his attainment of immortality. Here, however, the gesture may merely signify a genial welcome.
The statue has been put together from fragments. The mane and the head of the lion-skin have been restored; also a piece in the upper part of the right thigh, and a small piece in the middle of the back are restoration.
The piece has a dark patina with green encrustation.
According to a letter from Edward Perry Warren, dated Nov. 10, 1895: The Hercules was found near Norcia in Umbria in 1872 or earlier in the ruins of a little round building. At the same time were found some scores of bronze statuettes of Hercules, probably ex-votos, roughly executed to be sold cheap. It seems therefore that the round building was a temple of Hercules.; by 1892: in the possession of Martinetti in Rome (according to a letter from Warren, dated Dec. 26, 1892); by late 1894: purchased by Edward Perry Warren; 1895: purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren for $ 29,857.37 (this figure is the total price for MFA 95.9-95.174)
Catharine Page Perkins Fund