Vincenzo de’ Rossi is probably not a household name, nor perhaps is his master Baccio Bandinelli (if you’re an art historian or if you’ve been to Florence than you definitely know Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus, across from a copy of Michelangelo’s David in front of the Palazzo Vecchio). My goal with today’s WTF post is to forever ingrain the name Vincenzo de’ Rossi on your visual memory thanks to one of his seven completed sculptures of the Labors of Hercules (1560s), originally conceived as part of a fountain celebrating Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici.
Vincenzo de’ Rossi, Hercules and Antaeus, also referred to as Hercules and Diomedes, 1560s, marble. Palazzo Vecchio, Florence
WTF? Some mythological dude is grabbing Hercules’ family jewels! In case you didn’t notice, Hercules is the one winning. Or is he? Apparently Antaeus was the son of Poseidon, god on the sea, and Gaia, the personification of the earth. He gained strength when he was firmly rooted to the earth, but as you can see Hercules lifts him into the air and eventually strangles him. It seems that de’ Rossi imagined Antaeus’ final move as copping a wicked feel on Hercules junk. Does Antaeus acknowledge Hercules’ superior strength through this gesture? I think Antaeus could give Mike Tyson a run for his money…
And for those of you super-astute readers who are saying, “Wait a minute, Hercules didn’t fight Antaeus as part of his 12 Labors!” You’re right. That’s why this sculpture is alternatively called Hercules and Diomedes, the king whose horses ate human flesh. Hercules ultimately fed Diomedes to them and accomplished labor #8. In general, Hercules is shown lifting Antaeus off the ground whereas he throws Diomedes to the hungry horses. So is he lifting or throwing? Your call.
Whatever the case, Antaeus/Diomedes is definitely grabbing. Note to the wise: if you visit the Palazzo Vecchio, keep your hands off of Hercules’ manhood!
Vincenzo de’ Rossi, thank you for an awesome WTF moment in art history.