Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Hercules and Antaeus

early 16th century
Italian, probably Florence
Bronze, with red-brown natural patina, and remains of dark brown lacquer.
Height: 11 1/4 in. (28.6 cm)
Credit Line:
The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982
Accession Number:
Not on view
This is a free copy of an ancient marble group that was much admired during the Renaissance. The marble, now in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence, was brought in fragmentary form to the Vatican Belvedere by Julius II and apparently reached the Medici collections as a gift of Pius IV in 1560.[1] Before then, the head and right arm of Antaeus and the lower legs of both figures were still missing. Until the restorations were carried out, artists accordingly had license to complete the group following their own fancy. Our sculptor chose to show Antaeus’s head thrown back, as did Antico in his two statuettes of the composition (in Vienna and in the Victoria and Albert Museum).[2] A further innovation in this bronze is the curious placement of the hands of Antaeus.

The heavy, solid cast of reddish metal is worked all over by hammer strokes. Sharp creases delineate the folds of skin, but not all the metal has been chased cleanly away from adjoining areas, such as between the back of Antaeus and the shoulder of Hercules. The technique involves hardy and even rudimentary methods of casting and chasing, which might be expected of Florentines in the wake of Bertoldo di Giovanni (d. 1491). Little is known of Florentine bronzes of the first half of the sixteenth century, and exact parallels do not come readily to mind. In any case, the attribution to the Venetian artist Camelio (ca. 1460–1537), proposed in the 1962 Sotheby’s catalogue (London, May 10, 1962, no. 139), is incorrect.

[James D. Draper, 1984]

[1] F. Haskell and N, Penny, Taste and the Antique, New Haven and London, 1981, pp. 232–34.

[2] See A. Radcliffe, in Splendours of the Gonzaga (exhib. Cat.), London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1981, no. 55.
Antal Marczibanyi , Budapest (?) ; [ sale, Sotheby's, London , May 10, 1962, no. 139 ] ; Jack and Belle Linsky (until 1982; to MMA)
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