Friday, July 29, 2011

Revisiting Heracles and The Great Tradition of Pantsless Heroes

I wasn't originally intending to promote more naked sculpture this week. I was actually planning an interesting insight into the similarities between Jesus and Heracles instead. But (or should I say butt?) I found a picture on wiki commons of a sculpture which really, really deserved its own post. And not just because of the pantslessness. This image deserves its own post because it is just flat-out incredibly alive for a work of stone and photography. Because when I look at it, there's a catch in my throat at the beauty-- the way the light plays over the marble, the subtlety of carving which creates muscle and soft skin from rock. Heracles gets a lot of sculptures, but this image is flesh and soul, life and breath.

Hercules by Baccio Bandinelli

Basically, friends and followers, this is my homage to both the sculptor (Baccio Bandinelli) and the photographer who took this picture (Cyberuly), because I am in awe of what they have created together. You can find an image of the full sculpture here,  but it isn't NEARLY as impressive as this image, and frankly I find it a little bit disappointing. There is also a wiki page about the sculpture itself.

Keeping to the theme of bare backsides, the following is similarly beautiful image (from this site) of one of the Heracles/Hercules sculptures from the last blogpost which I absolutely love because he looks SO relaxed, and so supremely confident, while at the same time appearing as though he could spring into action at any moment. And behind his back? Those are the golden apples he obtained as one of his labors.

Hercules Farnese, photo taken by René Seindal
It's a Roman copy made ~3rd century AD of a Greek original which dates back to ~4th century BC, or so Wikipedia tells me (because again, I am no art historian). But obviously, when I say the tradition of Pantsless Heroes reaches back, this is one of the proofs in the pudding, so to speak.

But I mean, just look at it. The proportions, the balance, the natural feeling of the pose. The Greeks and Romans were masters of this art. And this Herc is just as beautiful from the front as he is from the back. Somehow, they have managed to carve grace into marble, and I am and always will be in complete awe of their skill.

It isn't just about the naked men (though I grant you, they are mighty fine). It's about breathing life into stone, and the fact that it is still standing, giving us this glimpse of how the Greeks and the Romans pictured their heroes. Even how they imagined the divine.

It's a little window into the past, and I can't stop myself from looking through it.


  1. The Bandinelli is stunning! I have a photo of that statue from my last trip to Florence, but I don't recall walking around the piece. It just happened to be situated in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. You can bet I will be looking closer when I'm there in September.

  2. AHH!! Perhaps you can solve a curiosity for us! Is the front of the statue really so straight from hips to armpits? It seems like it completely lacks the V in the front. I mean, it's not terribly wide at the shoulders in the back either, but it seems like there is definitely a lot more of it from that photo. We're trying to decide if the other photographs are just missing the right perspective, or if it really is lacking in the sculpture itself.

  3. not into males, butts or otherwise :P

    obviously, you've not checked out laughingwolf's backside... ok, i don't have a pic of it... mayhap that's why? ;) lol

  4. I admire sculptures of stone that evoke life, male or female. It just happens that I was researching Heracles and came upon these to post them. :)

  5. In my old pic the torso looks straight too. I think the back muscles (whatever they're called) "attach" under the arms, and Herc starts to V out from there. Because his arms are so close to his sides they hide where the breadth of his back starts to widen, but I think a shot from a side angle would show it. Oh goody, now I have a pictorial research project for Florence!

  6. Amalia, I LOVE this post. You've completely captured the sense of awe that classical art can evoke. Seeing photos of statues like these is what made me fall in love with the ancient world as a kid!

  7. VR: I look forward to seeing your results!!! I hope you'll share them :)

    Vicky: yes! I'm so glad you liked it. And I'm so glad you understand :) I feel the same way. It really is just awesome, in the most traditional sense of the word. I think I fell in love with the stories first, but seeing them this way really cements things. It really brings the heroes to life!

  8. These are phenomenal pictures; the naked buns are definitely secondary to the art. I know exactly what you mean about the beauty of the stone coming to life. My heart aches and feels full looking at these images, knowing someone created this. Thank you for posting them.

  9. I'm envious of how much character the Greeks and Romans were able to imbue into their sculpture. I mean, not only are they like flesh and blood, but they also have such fascinating personalities. I'm glad you enjoyed this post, Di!! :)


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