C. Avery and A. Radcliffe, Giambologna, sculptor to the Medici, exh. cat., Arts Council of Great Britain, London, 1978, no. 76.
A. Radcliffe, 'Giambologna's Twelve Labours of Hercules,' The Connoisseur, September, 1978, pp. 12-19.
C. W. Fock, 'The Original Silver Casts of Giambologna's Labours of Hercules,' in Studien zum Europäischen Kunsthandwerk: Festschrift Yvonne Hackenbroch, Munich, 1983, pp. 141-145.
C. Avery, Giambologna: The Complete Sculpture, Oxford, 1987, pp. 141-142, 262.
W. Seipel, ed., Giambologna: Triumph des Körpers, exh. cat., Vienna, 2006, pp. 95-99.
This magnificent group bears many of the hallmarks of the great Florentine bronzes of the late 16th and early 17th century. And, in particular, the workshop of Giambologna and Susini. Together with the mythological subject matter, model, and dazzling and bravura treatment of the bronze, the sculpture is futher linked to these great masters through traces of the original red-gold lacquer, the characteristic punching of the base and even the original casting repairs under the right shoulder.
As has now been well-established, Giambologna was commissioned by the Grand-Duke Francesco I de' Medici in 1576 to make models for a series of statuettes in silver depicting six of the Labors of Hercules for the celebrated Tribuna in the Uffizi gallery. These were cast in Paris by the court goldsmiths and Michele Mazzafirri was paid for his silver version of the present subject in 1582. None of the original silver versions survive, but bronze versions were evidently soon thereafter commissioned -- possibly even using the original molds -- as by 1607-11 there were two of the Labors in the illustrious Kunstkammer of Rudolph II in Prague. Giambologna's wax of Hercules and the Lernaean Hydra, initially in the collection of Giambologna's patron Bernardo Vecchietti at his country house Il Riposo, probably survived and may be the one now in the Loeser Bequest, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.
Other bronze versions of this model include the one recorded in the collection of Louis XIV in 1684 (current location unknown), one formerly with the Durlacher Brothers, London, when it was published by Bode in Italian Bronze Statuettes of the Renaissance, vol. III, 1912, p. 10, fig. 13 and a third, with a slightly different configuration of the heads of the Hydra, and also attributed to Susini, from the collection of Barbara Piasecka Johnson, which was sold Sotheby's, London, 8 July 2009, lot 18.