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Hercules overcoming the centaur Eurythion
  • Attributed to Ferdinando Tacca (1619 - 1686)
  • Giambologna (1524 - 1608), Derived from a model by
  • Hercules overcoming the centaur Eurythion
  • Florence, Italy
  • c.1640-1650
  • Group
  • Bronze copper alloy *(copper, tin an lead) and gold. Lost-wax cast, made in sections.
  • Height: 67 cm
    max, Width: 44 cm, c.
    max, Length: 45 cm, c.
  • S118
  • Great Gallery
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This gilt-bronze group forms a pair with another (S124) representing episodes from the Labours of Hercules.

    In his quest for redemption having committed murder in a fit of madness, the Greek hero Hercules had to complete a series of tasks or Labours. In the course of his atonement, he confronted numerous centaurs, most famously the ferryman Nessus who tried to rape Hercules’ wife Deianira, paying for his betrayal with his life. However, Nessus was killed by Hercules with an arrow, therefore our group must instead represent the hero’s struggle with another centaur, Eurythion whom Hercules encounters and defeats in two separate Parerga (ancillary incidents) relating to the fourth and fifth Labours. In both cases, Eurythion threatened one of Hercules’ s love interests and, as these were sometimes identified with Deianira, the episodes were often confused.

    S118 closely follows a model designed by Giambologna (1529-1608) and carved in marble for Grand Duke Ferdinando I de Medici (1549-1609) in 1594-99, today in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence. The original concept for the group, however, seems to have originated in a silver cast made by Giambologna over 20 years earlier for Francesco de Medici (1541-1587). The silver cast was part of an unfinished series of 12 Labours of Hercules destined for the Tribuna of the Uffizi and is now lost. However, a fragmentary terracotta model survives today at the British Museum and matches the recorded dimension of the silver cast, allowing us to appreciate the differences between the original model and the marble version.

    Today, numerous bronze casts survive, of around the same height as the terracotta and the lost silver original, some of which have very early provenances, suggesting that bronze reductions of this model were probably produced already during Giambologna’s lifetime.

    Our pair of bronzes, however, belongs to a distinct group of casts of larger dimensions representing five Labours. These larger models seem to have been designed in the 1630s by Giambologna’s follower and heir Pietro Tacca (1577-1640) who had been commissioned a new series of Labours from Grand Duke Cosimo II (1590-1621) in 1614. Casts from the models created for this commission seem to have been also requested by Prince Henry of England who, having received a group of bronze casts after Giambologna’s models in 1612, immediately ordered more bronze sculptures from the workshop that had by then passed to Tacca. However, documentary evidence seems to suggest that the commission was never completed by Pietro and that the models had not yet been cast by the time of his death in 1640.

    If certain stylistic elements of our bronze, like the characteristic treatment of the equine part of the centaur and the naturalistic terrasse, are typical of Pietro’s work, the facture and surface treatment of the cast suggest that it was most likely cast by Pietro’s son Ferdinando (1619-1686) and that would push the dating of the surviving casts to c.1640-50. Of the surviving large-scale versions, S118 is generally regarded as one if not the best in terms of quality of finish and detail.