The Farnese Hercules

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Once you have spent any time in the Stark Center (or browsing around this web site), you cannot miss Hercules.  Our emblem: strength, determination, commitment.  Terry and Jan Todd have always admired the Farnese Hercules, the strongman in repose.   Early, soon after returning to UT, they adopted Hercules but on paper only.  That changed when, in 2007, they received word that the Stark Center was about to become real.

Knowing that the Royal Museum for Art and History in Belgium could cast replicas of the Farnese, they commissioned the 10″6″, approximately 2000-pound statue to stand watch over the entrance to the Stark Center.  It is an exact copy of the original Farnese Hercules which was made in the second century A.D. for the Baths of Caracalla outside Rome.  The sculptor is unknown, although the statue is modeled after an earlier Greek statue by Glycon known as “The Weary Hercules.”

In the late nineteenth century, King Leopold II of Belgim sent artisans throughout Europe to take moldings of the great statues of antiquity so that the people of Belgium would have access to plaster copies, even if they couldn’t see the originals.  Those early molds are now stored at the Atelier de Moulage of the Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Gescheidenis (Royal Museum for Art and History) in Brussels, Belgium.  The Atelier is one of the few surviving workshops where the art of plaster cast making is still practiced.

The Stark Center’s Farnese Hercules was made from a mold taken from the original Farnese Hercules at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, Italy in approximately 1900.  That mold was used on only two other occasions:  first, shortly after it was originally made to check that the mold had survived the trip back to Brussels, and then again in 1960 for a museum in Europe.  As far as we have been able to determine, the Stark Center’s copy of the Farnese Hercules is the only full-size model of the statue in North America.

The statue was shipped by boat in four large crates in June 2009.  In August of that year, the Todds brought over two artists from the Atelier to reunite the four pieces and install Hercules on his turntable.  He makes a complete revolution approximately every three minutes.

Watching Hercules be slowly and meticulously pieced together created both a sense of anxiety and wonder.  Feelings that were to be duplicated some years later when the turntable on which Hercules rests required repair.  Movers with specialized skills in handling art and statuary were hired to shift Hercules onto a temporary platform.  In the photos below, you can see that it was a quite an undertaking, requiring both brute strength and just a little spray of dish soap.