Galleria Borghese logo
Search results for
No results :(

Hints for your search:

  • Search engine results update instantly as soon as you change your search key.
  • If you have entered more than one word, try to simplify the search by writing only one, later you can add other words to filter the results.
  • Omit words with less than 3 characters, as well as common words like "the", "of", "from", as they will not be included in the search.
  • You don't need to enter accents or capitalization.
  • The search for words, even if partially written, will also include the different variants existing in the database.
  • If your search yields no results, try typing just the first few characters of a word to see if it exists in the database.

Statue of Hercules in Battle

Roman art

This small statuette in green patinated bronze portrays a nude male figure wearing a lion skin knotted over his chest, the leontè, and brandishing a club in his right hand. It is an exemplar of the Hercules in Battle type that was especially popular in votive bronze production in the Italic world. There is a group of similar bronzes in the Borghese Collection that were restored in the eighteenth century by the goldsmith Luigi Valadier, who repaired them with bronze and attached them to gilt wood supports. This statuette was attached to a long gilt frame as a decorative element alternating with three similar figurines and three painted panels.

The miniature bronze, which seems to have had a votive function, is datable to the second century BCE.

Object details

II secolo a.C.
height cm 102

Borghese Collection, documented in 1773. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

  • 2019 - Roma, Galleria Borghese
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1773, Luigi Valadier
  • 19th century, Painted plaster applied to the left leg below the knee and part of the pubis.


This statuette is part of a group of miniature bronzes of various subject preserved in the storerooms of the Palazzina Borghese that is not mentioned in the inventories or bibliography relative to the archaeological collection. In study published in 2019, Minozzi notes a receipt, discovered by Gonzàlez-Palacios and dated 1773, for work done by Luigi Valadier on ‘alcune figurine accomodate’ (‘a few repaired figurines’), among which she identified the present group (1993, pp. 37, 50). The receipt describes the work done on the statuettes and their attachment to gilt wood panels, which were made, according to the author, by the same goldsmith (2019, pp. 192–195). The Hercules in Battle was attached, along with three others (inv. CCCII, CCC, CCCI), to a long frame, in alternation with three small paintings. The sculpture the one cited in the old document: ‘Per aver affermato quattro figurine antiche sopra una tavola longa dorata avendo in tutto fatto la fattura de sud.i già descritti bustini’ (‘For having attached four ancient figurines to a long gilt panel of the same workmanship as the small busts described above’; Archivio Apostolico Vaticano, Archivio Borghese n. 5294). EDXRF analysis carried out on the figure for the exhibition Valadier. Splendore nella Roma del Settecento, held at the Galleria Borghese in 2019, confirmed its authenticity and identified the material as ternary bronze covered with a green patina.

The small bronze portrays a male figure in heroic nudity with his legs slightly spread, the left moved a bit back and the left, slightly bent, moved forward and outward. His right arm is raised and bent at a right angle so that the forearm points upward and he holds a club in his fist, marked by a series of notches. His left arm, which is outstretched, is draped with a stylized, rectangular lion skin. His left hand, the fingers of which are clearly defined, is closed in a fist and possibly held a now lost object. The leontè, which ends in a kind of nimbus with two horizontal, pointed shapes to the sides of the head, is held with a ‘Hercules knot’ over his chest, composed of the animal’s front paws, the claws of which are very clearly defined. The pubis is lightly incised, and the genitals are emphasised. The surface of the body seems damaged by furrows across the chest, abdomen and left leg. His hair is worn like a cap with a raised border, incised with little notches that frame the forehead and come down to the ears. The eyes are rendered with an irregular oval furrow, the nose widens at the end and the mouth is partially open with small lips. The neck is broad and short.

The sculpture is an exemplar of the Hercules in Battle iconographic type that was popular in the Italic world, especially the Umbro-Sabellian area, and influenced by the art of Magna Graecia. The spread of the model, which was reproduced according to a fixed formula with occasional iconographic variants, attests to the development of local cult practices tied to the figure of the hero sometimes assimilated to a local divinity. In his broad survey of Italic bronze production in the Archaic period, published in 1970, Colonna identified the votive purpose of these miniature figurines and their derivation from an archetype dating to the fifth century BCE. Woodford and Cassola proposed that the iconography of Hercules as a fighter might have derived from the Herakles Alexikakos, a bronze statue attributed to the Argive sculptor Ageladas, who was active between the sixth and fifth centuries BCE. (1976, pp. 291–294; 1978, p. 42). In 1979, Moreno suggested a date for the sculpture in the second century CE.

Giulia Ciccarello

  • G. Colonna, Bronzi votivi umbro sabellici a figura umana. Periodo arcaico, I, Firenze 1970.
  • S. Woodford, Herakles Alexikakos reviewed, in “American Journal of Archaeology” 80, 1976, pp. 291-294.
  • P. Càssola, Bronzetti a figura umana dalle Collezioni dei Civici Musei di Storia ed Arte di Trieste, Venezia 1978.
  • A. Gonzàlez-Palacios, Il gusto dei principi. Arte di corte del XVII e del XVIII secolo, Milano 1993.
  • M. Minozzi, Cornici con applicazioni di bronzetti antichi e moderni, in Valadier. Splendore nella Roma del Settecento, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Galleria Borghese, 2019-2020) a cura di G. Leardi, Roma 2019, pp. 192-195.
  • Schede di catalogo 12/01008573, P. Moreno 1979; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2020.