Hercules & Cacus outside the Uffizi in Florence
Canon Powershot s90. Please click to view large
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Hercules and Cacus by Baccio Bandinelli, Piazza della Signoria, Florence.
This work by the Florentine artist Baccio Bandinelli (1525–1534) was commissioned as a pendant to David, which had been commissioned by the republican counsel of Florence, under Piero Soderini (gonfaloniere for life), to commemorate the victory over the Medici.
The colossus (height : 5.05 m) was originally given to Michelangelo and meant to complement the David but later appropriated by the Medici family as a symbol of their renewed power after their return from exile in 1512, and again in 1530. Although descriptions of its unveiling in 1534 provided verbal and written criticisms of the marble, most were instead aimed at the Medici family for dissolving the Republic and were not aesthetic. A few of the writers of these hypercritical verses were imprisoned by Alessandro de’Medici, further suggesting a political commentary. The two harshest critics were Giorgio Vasari and Benvenuto Cellini, both of whom were champions of Michelangelo and rivals of Bandinelli for Medici patronage. Vasari lamented the change of hands from Michelangelo to Bandinelli, and the change of design. Cellini referred to the emphatic musculature as “a sack full of melons,” forgetting that Michelangelo had received similar deprecation previously by Leonardo da Vinci. Neither Vasari, nor Cellini can be viewed as unbiased resources due to their rivalries. The patrons (Medici family) were quite satisfied and rewarded Bandinelli greatly for his efforts with land, money, and he was later placed in charge of all sculptural and architectural programs for the Medici under Cosimo I.
Here, the demi-god, Hercules, who killed the fire-belching monster Cacus during his tenth labor for stealing cattle, is the symbol of physical strength, which juxtaposed nicely with David as a symbol of spiritual strength, both symbols desired by the Medici. This marble group shows the basic theme of the victor (the Medici) and the vanquished (the republicans). The pause suggests the leniency of the Medici to those who would concede to their rule, and served as a warning to those who would not, as this pause can be indefinite or simply temporary.