This bronze is modelled after a Roman marble dating from about 200 A.D., now in the Museo Nazionale in Naples, which is in turn derived from a fourth century B.C. original, possibly by the sculptor Lyssipus. The Roman sculpture was discovered in the Baths of Caracalla in Rome by 1556 and was acquired by Pope Paul III Farnese, hence the name 'Farnese Hercules'. The sculpture was displayed by the Farnese family in the arcade around the courtyard of the Farnese Palace in Rome.
The hero Hercules is shown resting after having completed the twelve tasks assigned him. He leans wearily on his club and the Nemean lion's skin, and holds behind his back the three golden apples that eventually ensured his immortality. The Roman sculpture was used frequently as a model for small bronzes such as this one, but was also reproduced in drawings, engravings and carved into gems, all of which were souvenirs of antiquarian visitors to Rome.