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Hercules Farnese

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The Farnese Hercules (Italian: Ercole Farnese) is an ancient statue of Hercules, probably an enlarged copy made in the early third century AD and signed by Glykon, who is otherwise unknown; the name is Greek but he may have worked in Rome. Like many other Ancient Roman sculptures it is a copy or version of a much older Greek original that was well known, in this case a bronze by Lysippos (or one of his circle) that would have been made in the fourth century BC. This original survived for over 1500 years until it was melted down by Crusaders in 1205 during the Sack of Constantinople. The enlarged copy was made for the Baths of Caracalla in Rome (dedicated in 216 AD), where the statue was recovered in 1546, and is now in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples. The heroically-scaled Hercules is one of the most famous sculptures of antiquity, and has fixed the image of the mythic hero in the European imagination.

The Farnese Hercules is a massive marble statue, following a lost original that was 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 type was well known in antiquity, and among many other versions a Hellenistic or Roman bronze reduction, found at Foligno is in the Musée du Louvre. A small Roman marble copy can be seen over the Museum of the Ancient Agora, Athens

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