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Farnese Hercules

CNG 112, Lot: 650. Estimate $5000.
Sold for $4000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Gordian III. AD 238-244. Aureus (20mm, 5.29 g, 12h). Rome mint, 4th officina. 8th-11th emissions, AD 240-243. IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right / VIRTVTI AVGVSTI, Hercules, naked, standing right, resting right hand on hip and holding club set on rock in left hand; lion skin beside club. RIC IV 108; Calicó 3242; Biaggi 1373-4; Jameson –; Mazzini 401. Lustrous. EF.

This reverse type copies a famed Greek bronze sculpture dating to the 4th century BC, generally thought to be the work of the artist Lysippus. It depicts a weary Hercules after completing his Labors: he is shown leaning on his club, draped with the skin of the Nemean Lion and set upright on a rock, and he holds the Apples of the Hesperides behind his back in his right hand. Like many other masterpieces of Greek art, Lysippus’ sculpture was widely copied by the Romans. The most famous copy of this particular work is the marble Farnese Hercules, discovered in the excavations of the Baths of Caracalla in 1546. It stood for over 200 years in the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, from whence it gained its name, and was moved to Naples in 1787, where it is now displayed in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale.