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Roundel - Hercules and the Serpents
  • Hercules and the Serpents
    Antico Pier Jacopo di Antonio Alari Bonacolsi
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Hercules and the Serpents

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Mantua (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1480 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Antico Pier Jacopo di Antonio Alari Bonacolsi (sculptor)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 64, The Wolfson Gallery, case SS1

The infant hero is shown slaying the snakes sent against him by the goddess Juno on this medallion. The relief and its pendant 'Hercules and the Erymanthian Boar' (149-1882) together with that of 'Hercules and the Ceryneian Stag' in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, may be identified with three bronze roundels listed in the inventory of Ferdinando Gonzaga's collection, prepared in 1627. The style can be compared to works by the famous painter and printmaker, Andrea Mantegna 91430/31-1506). Mantegna was the Gonzaga court artist, and it is possible that he supplied designs for Antico to use.
Antico (Pier Jacopo di Antonio Alari-Bonacolsi, ca. 1460-1528) was an Italian sculptor and goldsmith. He was nick-named Antico, because in his work he related heavily to Antiquity. He re-created small scale statuettes of famous antique examples. He was active at the Gonzaga court at Mantua and made many bronzes for the court, notably for Ludovico, Bishop of Mantua and Isabella d'Este, wife of Francesco II Gonzaga, 4th Marchese of Mantua. He was also a restorer of antique statues and an adviser to art collectors.

Physical description

This medallion is decorated in relief with the infant Hercules on a couch strangling the serpents sent by Juno, who appears above in her car drawn by peacocks, while beside the couch are Alcmena and an aged woman, in attitudes expressive of amazement and terror. With the medallion is a wood frame covered with carved foliage in low relief.

Place of Origin

Mantua (made)


ca. 1480 (made)


Antico Pier Jacopo di Antonio Alari Bonacolsi (sculptor)

Materials and Techniques



Depth: 2.1 cm, Diameter: 32.7 cm

Object history note

Purchased in London (R. Pinti, £1000) in 1881.

Descriptive line

Roundel, bronze, Infant Hercules and the Serpents, by Antico, Italy (Mantua), ca. 1480

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

List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington Museum acquired during the Year 1881, London, 1882, p. 6.
Pope-Hennessy, John, assisted by Lightbown, Ronald, Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO 1964 (3 volumes), vol. 1, p. 321.
Raggio, Olga, 'Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum', in Art Bulletin. vol. L, 1968, p. 101.
Molinier, Émile. Les Plaquettes: les bronzes de la Renaissance. Paris, 1886, I. xxxiv
Hermann, Julius Hermann, ‘Pier Jacopo Alari-Bonacolsi, gennant Antico’, Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des Allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses, 1883-1918 28 (1909/1910), pp. 201-88, esp. p. 271.
Planiscig, L., Die Bronzeplastiken, Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum, 1924, No. 106, pp. 60-1.
Planiscig, L., Die Estensische Kunstsammlung, Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, 1919, vol. I, pp. 120-2, nos. 183-4.
Venturi, Adolfo, Storia dell'Arte Italiana, vol. X/1, 'La scultura del Cinquecento', Milan, 1935, p. 301, fig. 219-223.
Berger, A. 'Inventar der Kunstammlung des Erzherzogs Leopold Wilhelm von Oesterriech', in Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des Allerhochsten Kaiserhauses vol. I, 1883, 2, p. CLXIX, no. 120.
Exhibition of Italian Art. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1930, pp. 403-4.
Leithe-Jasper, Manfred, 'Renaissance Bronzes and the Vienna Collection' in Renaissance Master Bronzes from the Collection of the Kunsthistorischen Museum Vienna. Washington DC, Scala, 1986, pp. 81-4.
Hersey Allison, Ann, 'The bronzes of Pier Jacopo Alari-Bonacolsi called Antico', in Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien 89/90, Vienna, 1994, pp. 45-6, 67, 97-9, ill. pp. 97.

Labels and date

Pier Jacopo Alari Bonacolsi, called Antico (about 1455-1528)

These roundels may have been made
for a study belonging to a member of the Gonzaga family in Mantua. They show scenes from the Greek legend of Hercules, who was the personification of strength and therefore a popular subject.
Left, the infant Hercules strangles
poisonous snakes sent to kill him by
the goddess Juno, who flies overhead
in a chariot drawn by peacocks. Right,
Hercules has captured the fierce boar
that terrorised Mount Erymanthus.

The Infant Hercules Strangling the Serpents
Museum no. 58-1881

Hercules and the Erymanthian Boar
Museum no. 149-1882

Italy, Mantua,
Bronze [2019]



Subjects depicted



Medallions; Myths & Legends; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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