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Sketch model - Hercules and Antaeus

Hercules and Antaeus

  • Object:

    Sketch model

  • Place of origin:

    Rome (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1622 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Maderno, Stefano (sculptor)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Unfired clay

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case 5

Clays come from decomposed rocks ground down by weathering. Skill is needed in preparing wet clay to give it strength and ease of modelling, also to remove excess water and air before it is fired in a kiln. Firing fuses the clay particles and causes other structural changes that affect the colour and lead to shrinkage of about 10%. Comparatively few works in unfired clay survive because they are fragile and easily damaged.

This group is unfired but has been coated. It has been damaged, but it is unusual for such a large unfired object to survive at all. Hercules is wrestling with the giant Antaeus, whose strength flowed from the earth. He holds Antaeus aloft and is squeezing him to death.

Physical description

Unbaked clay group depicting Hercules and Antaeus. Hercules stands knotting his arms around the lifted Antaeus, who clutches at his face and shoulder and grips him with his right leg. On an oblong base with a tree stump support.

Place of Origin

Rome (made)


ca. 1622 (made)


Maderno, Stefano (sculptor)

Materials and Techniques

Unfired clay


Height: 59 cm

Historical context note

The group was acquired as a model by Ammanati for the fountain group at the Villa Reale de Castello, to which it is not in fact related. A slightly smaller version in terracotta of the same composition in the Ca d'Oro at Venice bears the signature of Maderno and the date 1622. Several bronze versions exist of the same size as the terracotta in Venice

Descriptive line

Sketch model, group, unbaked clay, Hercules and Antaeus, by Stefano Maderno, Italy, Rome, ca. 1622

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1863 In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 35
Maclagan, Eric and Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture. Text. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1932, pp. 132, 133
Pope-Hennessy, John. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Volume II: Text. Sixteenth to Twentieth Century. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1964, pp. 593, 594



Subjects depicted



Sculpture; Myths & Legends


Sculpture Collection

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