PERIOD: circa 250 B.C.
DIMENSIONS: Height 11 cm
PROVENANCE: Private English collection.
CONDITIONS: Excellent quality and condition.
Appealing figure of Herakles with early classical girl-like features. The hero is naked except for a lion skin covering his head, the shoulders and wrapped around the left forearm. The lion's paws are knotted on the chest. The lion skin shows a carefully incised fur. With his right hand the hero is leaning on a (missing) club. With the outstretched left hand he is holding the apple of the Hesperides. The contrapost of the figurine is not yet understood. That the artist is still experimenting with this new Greek concept is a good sign however and denotes that the figure is quite early. While the falling line of the pelvis on front is correct, the one along the shoulders is wrong. The lines on the back side should orientate completely different.
Herakles is the most famous hero in Greek mythology and perhaps also in all classic antiquity. His name comes from the goddess Hera and the Greek word "kleos" (gloria), meaning "the glory of Hera". He was considered to be the son of Zeus and Alceme, a mortal queen, foster son of Amphitryon and great-grandson of Perseus on his mother’s side. At birth he was given the name of Alcaeus or Alcides, in honour of his grandfather. This very word evokes the idea of strength. It was as an adult that he received the name with which he is known, imposed on him by Apollo through the Pythia, to indicate his condition as a follower of the goddess Hera. In ancient Rome as in western Europe, he is better known as Hercules, and some Roman emperors, Commodus and Maximian among others, identified with his figure.
His extraordinary strength is the most important of his attributes, but he is also known for courage, pride, a certain candor and formidable sexual prowess. He is considered to be the forebear of the kings of Sparta, and this was one of the reasons for the dissemination of his legend and cult, making Heracles the Dorian hero par excellence. There are many stories in mythology about him, the most important one is that of the Twelve Labours of Herakles. The stories in which he has the leading role form a cycle which is constant through all antiquity and for this reason it is difficult to give a chronological , or even a coherent exposition of them.