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 is part of a group of bronzes of various subject kept in the storerooms of the Palazzina Borghese and that is not mentioned in the inventories or bibliography for the archaeological collection. During the eighteenth century, the goldsmith Luigi Valadier restored this small bronze and used it and three others like it to decorate a long gilt frame, alternated with three small painted panels.

The patinated bronze is an exemplar of the Hercules in Battle type that was especially popular in the bronze production of the Italic world during the Archaic age. The figure is missing the club typical of the iconographic formula and would have originally held it in his raised right hand. His left arm is draped with the leontè, the skin of the Nemean Lion that the hero killed, rendered here as a stylised rectangular fragment.

The sculpture is probably a miniature votive bronze and was likely produced between the fifth and fourth centuries BCE in the Sabellian area between Lazio and Abruzzo.

Object details

V-IV secolo a.C.
height cm 11

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

  • 2019 - Roma, Galleria Borghese
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1773 - Luigi Valadier, restoration and fill


This statuette represents Hercules standing with his weight on his straight right leg while his slightly bent left leg is turned outward at an angle. His right arm is raised and held out to the side, with the forearm bent inward towards the body. His right hand is in a fist and would have held a club. His left arm, which is bent forwards, is draped with one end of the leontè, the skin of the Nemean Lion killed by Hercules, which falls with a kind of rectangular flourish on the figure’s forearm. His hand is missing a thumb. The pubis is clearly defined, and the pectorals are marked by horizontal and vertical furrows. The figure’s head, which is raised up, is spherical and his features are vague and worn, with round eyes marked by an incised outline. His hair is styled in a kind of bowl cut, his locks arranged in a continuous series of parallel striated ribs.

The sculpture is an exemplar of the Hercules in Battle type that was popular in the Italic world. Balty has linked the Borghese bronze to popular Sabellian bronze production and considers it comparable to a similar one in Fécamp (1961, pp. 22, no. 5, fig. 8; for the comparison: p. 20, no. 2). In a study of Italic bronze production during the Archaic age, Colonna identified various groups based on stylistic analysis of the objects. Given the solid sculptural articulation of the figure and the shape of the round, protruding eyes, the author included the Borghese sculpture in the group of ‘Umbro-Sabellian votive bronzes’, in particular Master C of the ‘Sulmona’ group centred in the Abruzzo area with exportations in Umbria (1970, p. 166, no. 521, pl. CXXVIII). The iconography of Hercules in Battle, widely attested with rare variants, would seem to have developed in about the fifth century BCE, probably influenced by models from Magna Graecia. Woodford and Cassola have imagined that small bronzes depicting Hercules as a fighter are copies of the Herakles Alexikakos, a bronze statue known only through literary sources and attributed to the Argive sculptor Ageladas, who was active between the sixth and fifth centuries BCE (1976, pp. 291–294; 1978, p. 42).

This statuette, currently kept in the storerooms of the Palazzina Borghese, is part of a group of miniature bronzes of various subject that are not mentioned in the inventories or bibliography relative to the archaeological collection. In an exhaustive study published in 2019, Minozzi noted a receipt, dated 1773 and discovered by Gonzàlez-Palacios, for payment for for work done by the goldsmith Luigi Valadier on various small bronzes described as ‘alcune figurine accomodate’ (‘a few repaired figurines’), among which she identified the present group (1993, pp. 37, 50). Study of the receipt, which describes filling in missing parts and attaching the figurines to gilt wooden panels of various shape, led the author to attribute the frames to Valadier (2019, pp. 192–195). The Hercules in Battle was attached, along with three other small bronzes (inv. CCLXXXIV, CCLXXXV, CCLXXXVI), as separators for small paintings along a long frame. EDXRF analysis of the statuette 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 painted patina. On the basis of stylistic analysis, a likely date for the work would seem to be between the fifth and fourth centuries BCE.

Giulia Ciccarello

  • J. C. Balty, Note sur un type italique de l’Hercule Promachos, in “Bulletin desMusées royaux d’art et d’histoire”, s. 4, 33, 1961, pp. 2-26, in part. p. 22, n. 5, fig. 8.
  • G. Colonna, Bronzi votivi umbro sabellici a figura umana. Periodo arcaico, I, Firenze 1970, p. 166, n. 521, tav. CXXVIII.
  • 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.
  • Schede di catalogo 12/01008574, P. Moreno 1979; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2020.
  • 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.