ANTICO
(b. ca. 1460, Mantova, d. 1528, Mantova)

Hercules and the Lernaean Hydra

1490s
Parcel-gilt bronze, diameter: 32,7 cm
Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence

Antico created the most technically advanced bronzes of the period. He was a court artist who spent his life working for the Gonzaga family as a goldsmith and sculptor of elegant bronze reductions of large-scale ancient marbles. He was among the strictest of the Classicizing artists of the late Quattrocento, continuing the tradition of Mantegna. He was the first sculptor to realize the advantages of casting replicas of his bronzes and thus marks a turning point in Western sculpture. He invented or mastered indirect casting to preserve his original models of wax on wire armatures. With this innovation he he established the supremacy of the north in casting: a comparable technique was not used in central Italy until the end of Cinquecento by Giambologna.

Antico produced a series of roundels depicting the exploits of Hercules. Hercules was a popular d'Este name, the roundels have been linked with Ercole I, who died in 1505. The picture shows one of the two surviving parcel-gilt examples.