Friday, March 27, 2015

Hercules and Cacus

Hercules and Cacus by Baccio Bandinelli, Piazza della Signoria, Florence
Hercules and Cacus by Baccio Bandinelli, 1534
Piazza della Signoria
Florence, October 2013

“Late nineteenth-century critics, devoted to the academic concepts of idealization, harmony and decorum, often saw in the Hercules and Cacus the opposite extremes of ugliness and brutishness. Charles Perkins condemned the statue's ‘vulgarity, pretentiousness, and bad modelling’ and John Addington Symonds referred to it as ‘the wrestling bout of a porter and a coal-heaver.’ This negative approach to Bandinelli's statue is still in force. Nearly every mention of the work in recent art historical or topographical literature is accompanied by a reference to or recitation of the statue's alleged failings, no matter how gratuitious those remarks might be. Kenneth Clark says that the statue is ‘certainly the ugliest Hercules in existence,’ and Franzsepp Wiirtemberger calls it a ‘weak, botched work.’ Even the normally laconic Touring Club of Italy guide to Florence refers to the statue as ‘poco felice.’ While some critical judgments of Bandinelli's statue, such as those byJohn Pope Hennessy or Creighton Gilbert, are undoubtedly due to real evaluations of the work, I suspect that a greater number result from routine repetitions of earlier prejudices.”

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