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Video transcript

[Music] we're in Naples at the Archaeological Museum looking at one of the most famous sculptures from all of antiquity it was discovered in the Renaissance during archaeological excavations in Rome of the baths of caracalla this is the so-called Farne z hercules and against that name because it was excavated by the far Nazy family they had been looking for building materials to take from ancient sites to build a new palace but what they found in the baths were an extraordinary array of ancient sculptures we can reconstruct the original site for this colossal sculpture there were mosaic floors walls made of different colored marble it was an incredibly luxurious behaving complex used by thousands of Romans every day and it was decorated with hundreds of sculptures many of them colossal like this one these were really complex structures these bathing facilities there were the baths themselves some were cold somewhere hot there were rooms for transition from one temperature to another there were places where one could exercise and this sculpture makes perfect sense in this environment this is a place where you would go to work out where you would go to exercise and you could look at this wildly muscular figure and have a bit of a goal many of the sculptures that were found in the vas of Caracalla were not the typical ideal athletic copies of Greek sculptures that we think of but they were especially bulky like the Hercules that we see here well we know that some successful Greek athletes would sometimes dedicate sculptures to Hercules in a way thanking him for their successes he was a symbol of strength and heroism and you can see that here but there's also iron in lice abysus treatment because even as we see this wildly powerful figure this incredible musculature we also see a figure that is exhausted he really is he leans almost his full weight on a club that's propped up under his arm and so to write there is a irony between the brute strength of his articulated muscles and languorous nosov his pose look at the way in which that abdomen is articulated look at the strength of his right shoulder of his right upper arm it's really massive you thrusts his right hip out so that he can fully lean his weight on his left side there is this marvelous contrapposto although the legs seem to be somewhat reversed but I love the way his torso slouches over as he leans and there's this overemphasized turn of that torso but that club doesn't look like a very secure support no if the whole thing is slightly precarious it seems as if lysippos and glycon who copied my supposes sculpture and there are more than 80 copies of sculptures of the weary Hercules that are survived but it does seem as though he's calling our attention to Hercules hands and perk Uli's is famous as a hero who became a God into these amazing exploits the 12 labors of Hercules so I'm noticing the open left hand and the way that the right hand is brought behind his back so we really want to move around the sculpture to see what's in his right hand that's right the artist has set us up so that we absolutely want to walk around the left hand is not original that's been lost and so what we're saying is a plaster reconstruction but the right hand is original and if you walk around the sculpture you actually see that he's holding the apples that he would have gotten from one of those labors the labor of the apples of the Hesperides so this is all part of the legend of Heracles Heracles was the original Greek figure and the Romans would call him Hercules what happened was this brute of a man in a fit killed his children that gods Mount Olympus punished him by putting this man Heracles who was the son of a god and of a human and therefore a hero they made him subservient to a king and he had to perform whatever deeds this king asked of him for 12 years this was his punishment and the King asked of him tremendously difficult tasks the first of which was the killing of the Nemean lion and if you look carefully it just draped over the club you can see the pelt of that lion that he had slayed so this sculpture is actually referring to two of those labors one of the things that seems a little strange as we look up at him is how small his head is and this is something that Lycidas the Greek sculpture the original sculptor that this was based on was known for was changing the Canon of proportions that have existed during the Classical period in Greece in the fifth century where there was more of a sense of harmony and balance between the parts of the body life sip is created a new set of proportions where the figure was taller the head was smaller and they gave the figure a new sense of elegance elegance and also of height and here it's married of course with this increased bulk the other thing that lysippos is so well known for what you mentioned earlier is the way in which he begins to break out of the more restricted space that classical figures had generally occupied so that by extending for instance that left hand by moving that right hand behind this back he really does invite us to understand this sculpture in the round as opposed to seeing it as a frontal object the thing that strikes me most though about the sculpture is the way in which we can understand his feeling of exhaustion and the way that's contrast against the potential energy and power of that body so the things that we're talking about the new Canon of proportions the way that we're asked to move around the sculpture not only do I want to walk behind it to see what's in his right hand but I also want to walk to the place where he is looking down to so we can look up at his face and see the expression the sense of empathy we have for him these are all things that are typical of the Hellenistic period of ancient Greek art that this copy was they style and clearly something that the Romans really appreciated [Music] you