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Figure group - Hercules and Antaeus

Hercules and Antaeus

  • Object:

    Figure group

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1840 - ca. 1849 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hatfield, John Ayres (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Dr W. L. Hildburgh FSA

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

On acquisition by the V&A in 1956, this bronze was considered to be 'possibly German, 18th century'. But a Hatfield foundry stamp concealed under the right foot of Hercules was discovered in the early 1980s, when the figure was removed from its base to repair the ankle, which was cracked. This group, with certain modifications, is based on a bronze in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle, Berkshire.

John Ayres Hatfield established a firm of art metal workers in London in the 1840s, and supplied the Art Union with bronze statuettes. The firm is still in business: H. J. Hatfield & Sons, Restorers, 42 St Michael's Street, London.

The well-known story of the Greek hero Hercules squeezing to death his opponent Antaeus has been a subject since classical times. <i>Antaeus</i>, son of Gaia, was a giant, whose strength appeared invincible. He was known for challenging travellers to wrestling matches which he invariably always won, until he met <i>Hercules</i>. During their combat it appeared at first as though <i>Hercules</i> might lose, for no matter how many times he threw <i>Antaeus</i> to the ground, it did no good. <i>Hercules</i> eventually realised that the earth (Gaia), <i>Antaeus'</i> mother, was the source of his strength, so he held the giant aloft from the ground until all his power had drained away, and then crushed him to death.

Physical description

Figure group of Hercules and Antaeus. Hercules, who wears the lion's pelt with the lion's mask ontop of his head and hanging down his back, lifts up Antaeus, who has his left arm raised, and whose body is falling to his right. Rocky ground on base.

Place of Origin

London (made)


ca. 1840 - ca. 1849 (made)


Hatfield, John Ayres (maker)

Materials and Techniques



Height: 47 cm

Object history note

Given by Dr. W. L. Hildburgh, F. S. A., 1956. Previously on loan from Dr Hildburgh from May 1953.

Descriptive line

Figure group, bronze, Hercules and Antaeus, cast by John Ayres Hatfield, London, ca. 1840-49

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

Bilbey, Diane with Trusted, Marjorie, British Sculpture 1470 to 2000. A Concise Catalogue of the Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2002, p. 299, cat. no. 462

Production Note

The group is copied with modifications from a 17th century bronze in the collection of H. M. The Queen, Windsor Castle



Subjects depicted



Ph_survey; Sculpture; Bronze; Myths & Legends


Sculpture Collection

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