Hercules and Cacus Statue

Hercules and Cacus Statue, Florence, Italy

Public Art: Hercules and Cacus Statue

Sculptor: © Baccio Bandinelli (17th October 1493 – c. 7th February 1560)

Date: 1534

Description: This 5.05m white Carrara marble statue depicts the fight between mythological characters Hercules and Cacus. Hercules stands above the fire-breathing monster, Cacus, who is kneeling over a boar. Hercules holds a "bronze" (see Crazy Facts) club in one hand whilst gripping the hair of Cacus with the other.

Location: One of many statues lined up on the Piazza della Signoria in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy.

Commissioned by: Pope Clement VII (Relative of the Medici family).

History: Poor old Bandinelli tried to outdo Michelangelo's David but came off second best and subsequently was ridiculed by his peers. It all began when the Medici Family regained power in Florence. The Republican Counsel of Florence had previously commissioned the likes of Michelangelo and Ammannati to create the works of David, Fountain of Neptune and Judith and Holofernes to commemorate the victory over the Medici. So it only seemed fair that the Medici's would return the favour. The Hercules and Cacus statue was to commemorate the Medici return, Hercules representing the Victors (Medici) whilst Cacus represented the vanquished (the Republicans). The statue was intended to outclass Michelangelo's.

Bandinelli was chosen as the sculptor, but all did not go smoothly. After Pope Clement VII selected the wax model of his choice, Banninelli was horrified to learn that the block of Carrara marble wasn't big enough for his sculpture. He had to make new wax models to be approved once more by the Pope. As luck would have it Bandinelli had chiseled as far as the abdomen of Hercules when the pope was taken prisoner following the 1527 Sack of Rome. This left the Medici's vunerable and it wasn't long before the Republican enemies made their move in Florence.

Ippolito de' Medici was exiled and so too Baninelli, a strong supporter of the Medici. In 1530, following a long siege, Florence was reclaimed by Emperor Charles V, Pope Clement VII was released from prison and his illegitimate son, Alessandro de' Medici, was declared duke of Tuscany. Everything returned to normal, peace was restored, Bandinelli returned and the chiselling continued. The statue was completed in 1534 and promptly transported from the Opera del Duomo to its present marble pedestal. Unfortunately, following its unveiling, Bandinelli (who expect accolades) was instead ridiculed.

Controversy: The statue was created as a counterpart to Michelangelo's statue of David. Unfortunately for Bandinelli the statue was ridiculed. Even the famous sculptor Benvenuto Cellini couldn't contain himself, referring to it as "a sac full of melons" (ouch).

Crazy Facts: When the statue was restored between February 1994 and April 1994 it was discovered that the club in the hand of Hercules wasn't the original club, but was made of aluminum instead of the original bronze.

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