Monday, January 18, 2010

Antique of the Week: The Farnese Hercules

As it came time to create this week's installment of Antique of the Week, I've been hard at work on Olympians Book 3, The Glory of Hera. Obviously the Queen of the Gods herself steps up to take center stage in this chapter, but the book also focuses in large part on Heracles, the super-strong demi-god son of Zeus. In fact, in a way, the book is even named after him-- the title "Glory of Hera" is a translation from ancient Greek of Heracles's name.

So the statue we're looking at here is of Heracles, the famous Farnese Hercules. Heracles gets his Latin name here because this statue was created for Ancient Rome, and was located in the Baths of Caracalla (possibly a future candidate itself for Antique of the Week). The Farnese portion comes from when the statue was rediscovered in the sixteenth century and was promptly snatched up by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, nephew of the Pope. Nowadays the sculpture is on display at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, which is where I took these photos.

This statue is my favorite depiction of Heracles/Hercules from ancient sources, and my own depiction of the hero in Hera owes a lot to this sculpture. Things I particularly like-- his exaggerated musculature,and the weary, tired expression on his face and posture. I also really like the way that the sculptor worked in so many of Heracles's symbols-- tired, he leans against his olive wood club, around which he has draped the skin of the Nemean Lion- killing and skining that lion was Heracles's first Labour. Then, around his back, we see that he is holding a couple of the Apples of the Hesperides-- Golden apples from the private garden of Hera herself, which for his eleventh Labour Heracles was sent to fetch.

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