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Statue of Heracles of the Albertini Type

Roman art

Statue of Heracles of the Albertini type. The head and neck are modern and replicate a portrait of Commodus. The figure is standing, with its weight on the right leg, while the left leg is bent. He holds a club in his right hand, and the apples of the Hesperides in his left. A lion’s skin (leontè) is draped over his bent forearm, hanging down over the side support. The subject and iconography of the sculpture point to a Hellenistic model reworked in the Roman imperial period.

Object details

II secolo d.C.
white marble
total height (with plinth) cm 168; statue cm 156; head cm 22

Ceoli Collection, acquired by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, 1607. Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, no. 78. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 18th century - The plinth, lower part of the support, left foot, right leg below the knee, left hand with the club, right hand with the apples and nose were all restored. Various fragments of marble were used for the restoration, assembled with pins and other components.
  • 1918 - Cesare Fossi. Repair of the club and one of the hands.
  • 1990/1991 - I.C.R.
  • 1996 - Abacus
  • 2008 - Consorzio Capitolino
  • 2020 - C.B.C. coop. a r.l.


This bearded Heracles, the ivy-crowned head of which is modern and replicates a portrait of Commodus (and was evidently already inserted and restored in the sixteenth century), came from the Ceoli Collection and was acquired by Scipione Borghese in 1607. Reproduced in a drawing by the Florentine artist Andrea Boscoli (Rome, Gabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe, neg. 10949, Fondo Corsini, n. 130644), between the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, the ‘Crowned Hercules’ must have been in the residence of Tiberio Ceoli in via Giulia.

The sculpture was also depicted, complete with the additions, which were unquestionably based on a learned interpretation of the iconographic subject, in a fine engraving by Philippe Thomassin, with the caption Hercules in aedibus Card. Burghesij (Antiquarum Statuarum Urbis Romae, 1608-1615, no. 34; Gallottini 1995, p. 72, no. 34).

When it arrived at the Villa Pinciana, it was displayed with other ancient statues around the round fountain, in the garden’s first enclosure, as reported by Iacomo Manilli and Domenico Montelatici. The latter described it as a ‘Hercules with a club, holding the apples that he picked in the garden of the Hesperides, showing that he had overcome and killed the dragon that was guarding them’ (Montelatici 1700, p. 23). This location is confirmed by a print by Francesco Venturini from the late eighteenth century (published in G.B. Falda’s collection on the fountains of Rome, fig. 5, volume 3).

After 1815, it was in Room II, known as the Room of Phaeton and later the Room of the Sun, after the radiating colossus. It was seen in this room, displayed in one of the large niches, next to the Copenhagen/Dresden-type Hercules and the Seleucia-type Hercules at rest, by Antonio Nibby, who described the three sculptures, all of which heavily restored, as ‘mediocre works’, adding that that room, decorated with Tommaso Righi’s cameos, Francesco Caccianiga’s Phaeton on the ceiling and Giovanni Agricola’s precious figures, could have been named for Hercules, since two statues ‘show him in the pose of the famous statue by Glycon, the third presents the god of Thebes wearing an ivy crown and holding in his left hand the apples from the garden of the Hesperides guarded by the lethal dragon’ (Nibby 1832, p. 66).

Nibby’s suggestion was evidently accepted, since the Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese of 1833 reports the dedication of Room II to the demigod hero. And indeed, the room was now hosting a kind of Herculean cycle: besides the statues in the niches, there was a sarcophagus with the Labours of Heracles (inv. LXXIX) and sculptures on various iconographic themes (Heracles as a boy with the lion’s skin, inv. CIII); a colossal head of the Pozzuoli Antinori type, inv. LXXXIII; Heracles as a boy fighter, inv. LXXXIV; a herm of Heracles wearing drapery, inv. LXXXVI; a herm of Heracles as a boy wearing a ram’s skin, inv. XC). After 1833, the rare ‘Effeminate Hercules’ from the Aldobrandini Collection was also displayed in the room. Documented until 1859, it was then sold to the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen. When the niches were walled up towards the end of the nineteenth century, the three statues, all of different size, were displayed elsewhere. Before it was brought to the Portico, where the Copenhagen/Dresden-type statue (inv. CXXII) is also on view, the Albertini Heracles, described by Venturi as Ercole ignudo, was in Room III (foto Anderson 4606). The Seleucia-type statue (inv. CCLXI), once on the terrace, was then moved to the portico.

Judging by the preserved parts of the ancient statue (the body, arms, left leg and right leg up to the knee) and the upper part of the support, it might have been an imperial Roman copy of a Greek model, attributed by some to Lysippus (340 BCE) and by others to Polykleitos (375–350 BCE), that is known through numerous replicas, the most representative of which is the Albertini Heracles in the Museo Nazionale Romano. According to another theory, the prototype might have been the Alexikakos Heracles (he who defends from evil) sculpted by Ageladas the Younger for the sanctuary of the Attic deme of Melite and linked to the plague that struck Athens between 430 and 429 BCE. The pose and style do seem connected, in particular in terms of the rendering of the nude figure’s anatomy, to the Zeus on the pediment of the temple at Olympia and the Tydeus of Riace (Museo di Reggio Calabria), both of which are attributed to the sculptor from Argos (Moreno, Viacava 2003, p. 62). The stylistic rendering and treatment of the marble surface and a few details, like the lion’s skin, have led some to imagine that it derives from a bronze, produced in Magna Graecia in the fourth century BCE. Although the identity of the model that inspired the type – another possibility is the image on the coinage of Sikyon (possibly designed by Skopas) or Heraclea – remains open to debate, the subject and iconographic type were very popular during the imperial age and attested in numerous variants, as much in terms of the equilibrium of the pose as inclusion of the hero’s typical attributes. An interesting comparison can be made with a bronze statuette in Basel (Standing Hercules with the Apples of the Hesperides) that came from southern Italy (100 BCE). Similar in composition, it would seem to derive from the same model (T. Lochman, in Ercole e il suo mito, ed. F.-W. von Hase, Milan 2018, p. 50). One variant on the type is the Lenbach Hercules in the Santarelli Collection (S. Petrocchi, in Ercole e il suo mito, ed. F.-W. von Hase, Milan 2018, p. 52), which dates to the same period as the Borghese statue.

Clara di Fazio

  • I. Manilli, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana, Roma 1650, p. 11.
  • D. Montelatici, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana con l’ornamenti che si osservano nel di lei Palazzo, Roma 1700, p. 23.
  • A. Nibby, Monumenti scelti della Villa Borghese, Roma 1832, p. 66.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1840, p. 12.
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno 1838, Roma 1841, p. 915.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1854 (1873), p. 14.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 30.
  • G. Giusti, La Galerie Borghèse et la Ville Humbert Premier à Rome, Roma 1904, p. 25.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1954, p. 5.
  • P. Moreno, Museo e Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, p. 6.
  • P. Moreno, S. Staccioli, Le collezioni della Galleria Borghese, Milano 1981, p. 101.
  • L. De Lachenal, La collezione di sculture antiche della famiglia borghese e il Palazzo in Campo Marzio, in “Xenia” 4, 1982, pp. 49-117, in part. p. 69.
  • P. Moreno, C. Sforzini, I Ministri del Principe Camillo: cronaca della collezione Borghese di antichità dal 1807 al 1832, in “Scienze dell’antichità” 1, 1987, pp. 339-371; in part. p. 340.
  • K. Kalveram, Die Antikensammlung des Kardinals Scipione Borghese, in “Römische Studien der Bibliotheca Hertziana”, 11, Worm am Rehin 1995, p. 256, n. 195.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, p. 62, n. 5.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/ 00147875, P. Moreno 1975; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2021