The Wallace Collection

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Hercules Wrestling with Achelous in the Form of a Bull
  • Attributed to Ferdinando Tacca (1619 - 1686)
  • Pietro Tacca (1577 - 1640), After a model by
  • Hercules Wrestling with Achelous in the Form of a Bull
  • Florence, Italy
  • mid 17th century
  • Group
  • Bronze copper alloy, gilded. Lost-wax cast, cast in parts.
  • Height: 58.4 cm
    Length: 48 cm, base
    Width: 40.5 cm, base
  • S124
  • Great Gallery
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This gilt-bronze group forms a pair with another (S118) representing episodes from the Labours of Hercules, an extremely popular mythological subject since the early Renaissance. In his quest for redemption after having committed murder in a fit of madness, the Greek hero Hercules had to complete a series of Twelve tasks or Labours.

    In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the river god Acheloüs himself recounts the story of his fight against Hercules. Acheloüs and Hercules had been competing for the hand of the beautiful Deianeira in a contest organised by Deianeira’s father. During the illustrious fight, the struggling Acheloüs turned himself first into a bull-headed man, then into a serpent, and finally into a bull. This bronze sculpture captures the moment Hercules managed to force his opponent to the ground by grabbing his horns. The horn Hercules ripped off in the struggle would become the cornucopia, from then on a ubiquitous symbol of abundance.

    S124 and S118 are both re-elaborations of models designed by Pietro Tacca (1577-1640) in the 1610s as part of a series of bronze Labours commissioned by Grand Duke Cosimo II (1590-1621) in 1614. Pietro’s groups in turn closely derived from models created in the 1570s by the great sculptor Giambologna (1529-1608) for an unfinished series of 12 silver groups with the Labours of Hercules destined for the Tribuna of the Uffizi and now lost.

    If certain stylistic elements of our bronze, like 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.