Roman, Imperial Period, ca. 2nd century CE. Wow! This expertly carved marble figure of Hercules is remarkably lifelike! The sculptor has successfully rendered his anatomy - with well-defined musculature and anatomy (just look at those abdominals and pectorals - and that gluteus maximus is to be admired as well) as well as lifelike motion (note how his left foot is advancing) and gesture (yes, it appears that the hero of all heroes is holding his privates so as to relieve himself). Over his shoulders is one of his chief attributes - a cloak of skin from the Nemean Lion. While his head is for the most part missing, we do see the curled tendrils of his coiffure cascading down his back and those of his beard falling to his chest. Size: 15.94" H (40.5 cm)
Sculptures depicting a drunken Hercules urinating were actually fairly popular in ancient Rome and are generally referred to as Hercules mingens meaning "Hercules pees." This statue was modeled with a Hellenistic philosophy in mind. Hellenistic subjects did not fit the Classical ideal; subjects were oftentimes either very old or very young, disfigured, exhausted (the famous Boxer at Rest), or drunk like this example.
Although most think of Hercules as the strongest of all ancient heroes who met immense challenges, he also enjoyed life and all of its indulgences whenever possible. A man with a strong appetite and very little restraint, Hercules definitely enjoyed fruit of the vine. So it should come as no surprise that he became inebriated from time to time, and following this, needed to relieve himself as we see depicted in this piece.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-British collection, the British collector had owned it since the 1970's. This piece was in a German auction in 2014: Praekolumbische Kunst Kunstwerke der Antike, Munzen und Medaillen, Jubilaumsauktion 300 - 150 Jahre Kunsthandel in der Familie Numismatishe Tradition Seit 1887 - Munich, 24 September 2014.
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A fragment from a larger statue with losses and age wear as shown.