Hercules and Cacus

Hercules and Cacus

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The white marble sculpture Hercules and Cacus is to the right of the entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza della Signoria, Florence, Italy.
This work by the Florentine artist Baccio Bandinelli (1525–1534) was commissioned as a pendant to David, which had been commissioned by the republican counsel of Florence, under Piero Soderini (gonfaloniere for life), to commemorate the victory over the Medici
The House of Medici or Famiglia de' Medici was a political dynasty, banking family and later royal house that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de' Medici in the Republic of Florence during the late 14th century. The family originated in the Mugello region of the Tuscan countryside,...


The colossus (height : 5.05 m) was originally given to Michelangelo and meant to complement the David but later appropriated by the Medici family as a symbol of their renewed power after their return from exile in 1512, and again in 1530. Although descriptions of its unveiling in 1534 provided verbal and written criticisms of the marble, most were instead aimed at the Medici family for dissolving the Republic and were not aesthetic. A few of the writers of these hypercritical verses were imprisoned by Alessandro de'Medici, further suggesting a political commentary. The two harshest critics were Giorgio Vasari and Benvenuto Cellini, both of whom were champions of Michelangelo and rivals of Bandinelli for Medici patronage. Vasari lamented the change of hands from Michelangelo to Bandinelli, and the change of design. Cellini referred to the emphatic musculature as "a sack full of melons," forgetting that Michelangelo had received similar deprecation previously by Leonardo da Vinci. Neither Vasari, nor Cellini can be viewed as unbiased resources due to their rivalries. The patrons (Medici family) were quite satisfied and rewarded Bandinelli greatly for his efforts with land, money, and he was later placed in charge of all sculptural and architectural programs for the Medici under Cosimo I.

Here, the demi-god, Hercules
Hercules is the Roman name for Greek demigod Heracles, son of Zeus , and the mortal Alcmene...

, who killed the fire-belching monster Cacus
In Roman mythology, Cacus was a fire-breathing giant monster and the son of Vulcan.-Mythology:Cacus lived in a cave in the Palatine Hill in Italy, the future site of Rome. To the horror of nearby inhabitants, Cacus lived on human flesh and would nail the heads of victims to the doors of his cave...

 during his tenth labor for stealing cattle, is the symbol of physical strength, which juxtaposed nicely with David as a symbol of spiritual strength, both symbols desired by the Medici. This marble group shows the basic theme of the victor (the Medici) and the vanquished (the republicans). The pause suggests the leniency of the Medici to those who would concede to their rule, and served as a warning to those who would not, as this pause can be indefinite or simply temporary.
The commission for the Hercules and Cacus, as mentioned, was appropriated by the pope Clement VII (Giulio de'Medici), some time during or before 1523. He was shown a wax bozzetto by Bandinelli, who received the commission. The quarried block of white Carrara
Carrara is a city and comune in the province of Massa-Carrara , notable for the white or blue-grey marble quarried there. It is on the Carrione River, some west-northwest of Florence....

 marble arrived in Florence in 1525. It has been suggested that the block of marble was not large enough for Bandinelli's design and he was to make a new one, however, the reason for the change may have been purely for symbolic reasons. His first design was extremely active and violent, and it is likely that the Medici did not want such a harsh reminder of their brutal return to power. Vasari stated that Bandinelli had already carved the sculpture as far as the abdomen of Hercules when, in 1527, the pope was taken prisoner in Rome during its Sack, and the Medici were exiled once again from Florence. Meanwhile, in Florence, the republican enemies of the Medici took advantage of the chaos to expel Ippolito de' Medici
Ippolito de' Medici
Ippolito de' Medici was the illegitimate only son of Giuliano di Lorenzo de' Medici.Ippolito was born in Urbino. His father died when he was only five , and he was subsequently raised by his uncle Pope Leo X and his cousin Giulio.When Giulio de' Medici was elected pope as Clement VII, Ippolito...

 from the city and return the marble to Michelangelo. Vasari stated a change in subject, which is substantiated by a terracotta bozzetto, as a Samson Slaying the Philistines. This was probably to separate the project from the Medici and was allowed due to Bandinelli, as a supporter of the Medici, having to leave the city. In 1530, Emperor Charles V
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

 assisted the Medici in retaking possession of Florence after a long siege. Pope Clement VII subsequently installed his illegitimate son Alessandro de Medici as duke of Florence. Bandinelli then returned and continued his work on the statue. Finally in 1534 the work on the statue was finished transported from his studio to the Piazza della Signoria and placed on its marble pedestal
Pedestal is a term generally applied to the support of a statue or a vase....

as part of the ringiera.

The statue was restored between February 1994 and April 1994. It was then discovered that the club in the hand of Hercules was not the original club, but was made of aluminum instead of the original bronze.