Head of Herakles, Italy, c. 1st century A.D., marble, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley in memory of Professor Alan R. Bromberg, via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, and Wendover Fund. Composed and restored by Lambert Sigisbert Adam (1700-1759).
It is similar to 2 1st century C.E. Roman works that reside in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Vatican Museums, said to be based on Hellenistic Greek work of the mid-2nd century C.E. Dallas Museum of Art acquired this marble head of Herakles, the Greek hero the Romans called Hercules, at a Sotheby’s, New York auction in June of 2015 and showcases the talents of three different artistic hands. It is a pastiche of two antiquities rendered by a master sculptor of the rococo period, Lambert-Sigisbert Adam and offers an interesting look at Greek religion, Roman military commemoration, and the taste and flourishes of 18th-century artistry. Using fragments of Roman sculpture together to create a new work was a common practice in the 1700s. The head was excavated sometime between 1723 and 1732 in Rome by a Cardinal Melchior de Polignac and traded in payment for restoration work in his collection. You can see the line at the neck where the head was attached to this bust.
“This powerful bust is as interesting for its later history in 18th-century France as it is for its Greco-Roman origins,” added Anne R. Bromberg, the DMA’s Cecil and Ida Green Curator of Ancient and Asian Art. “The head is a striking example of Roman realism in art: the mature, forceful face, the curly mustache, and the rich hair suggest an actual Roman man more than the epic hero Herakles, while the rich drapery of the shoulders might well be the dress of a Roman emperor or nobleman.”
Information provided was adapted from information found in various press releases for the acquisition of this piece by the museum, Anne Bromberg, DMA.