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Post Lot Text
A PAIR OF BRONZE GROUPS OF HERCULES AND A CENTAUR AND HERCULES AND ACHELOUS IN THE FORM OF A BULL
AFTER GIAMBOLOGNA (1529-1608) AND PIETRO TACCA (1577-1640), PROBABLY FRENCH, FIRST HALF 18TH CENTURY
The former depicting Hercules standing astride and attacking the centaur with his club in his right hand, the latter depicting Hercules wrestling the bull to the ground, each on an integral naturalistic bronze plinth; warm brown patina with lighter high points; restorations
These superb bronze groups are thought to be derived from a series of the Twelve Labours of Hercules originally created by Giambologna in silver in the 1570s and 1580s as part of a commission to decorate the Tribuna of the Grand Duke Francesco I de' Medici in Florence. Although the original six silver examples are all now lost, documents exist which show that Pietro Tacca, who inherited Giambologna's workshop in the Borgo Pinti, was working, himself, on a series of Labours to be cast in bronze between at least 1612 and 1633. On a larger scale than the original compositions, it is thought that the models executed by Tacca were based upon those created by Giambologna, but may also have included original compositions to complete the series. The popularity of the models ensured that examples entered some of the most prestigious collections; seven Labours, including an example of Hercules and Achelous were numbers 301 to 308 of the collection of Louis XIV.
In fact, several of the models created by Giambologna and Tacca were not true Labours of Hercules, including the two here. Because the canonical Labours included stories that were virtually impossible to convey in sculptural terms, some other histories surrounding the life of the hero were conscripted to complete the traditional number of twelve. The present groups depict Hercules and a Centaur, sometimes referred to as Nessus, and Hercules and Achelous in the form of a Bull. Nessus was killed by Hercules when he tried to abduct the latter's wife Deianira. Achelous was a river god and suitor of Deianira who battled with Hercules in the form of a bull. Hercules defeated him by breaking off his horn. Both groups exploit the contrast between the human and animal forms to create a dynamic composition. The bold forms and silhouettes of each are beautifully complemented by the minute attention to the detail of chiselling and punching.