This impressive bronze group of Hercules and the Centaur after Giambologna's model is a highly important addition to the history of bronze sculpture in Florence in the age of the Late Baroque. Apart from its immediately perceptible visual and tactile qualities, this bronze group provides evidence for the theory that Giambologna's models were continued to be cast by the major Florentine sculptors of the late 17th and early 18th century. The principal sculptor was Giovanni Battista Foggini, who began to dominate the sculptural scene in Florence shortly after his return from Rome in 1676, where he had studied at the Florentine Acadamy. In 1686 Foggini became court sculptor of Grand Duke Cosimo III, and in 1694 he was nominated court architect as well. Unlike his contemporary Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi, who specialised in bronze casting alone, Foggini notably excelled in bronze casting but also worked in marble and wood. Amongst his major accomplishments in bronze is the Tomb of Saint Francis Xavier, which he created for the Jesuit Church of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, India (1691-97, in situ).
According to an unpublished document found by Dimitrios Zikos - whom we would like to thank for first suggesting and confirming upon inspection Foggini's authorship of the present bronze - the Florentine court sculptor owned nine (of the twelve) Labours of Hercules by Giambologna, including two examples of Hercules and the Centaur (nos. 2 and 10 in the inventory): "Dieci Gruppi che rappresentano le Forze d'Ercole alti due terzi [braccia] 1o Ercole con il Cing[hi]ale 2o Ercole che ammazza il Centauro 3o Ercole che scaglia Lica 4. Ercole che sbrana il Leone 5 Ercole che ammazza l'Jdra 6. Ercole che ferma il Ceruo 7o Ercole che scoppia Anteo 8. Ercole cin il Mondo 9o Altro Ercole con il Centauro 10 Ercole con il Cerbero." The addition of a rocky, striated terrain base (which is typical for Florentine bronzes of the late Baroque), and the transposition of Giambologna's stylised drapery into Foggini's soft and naturalistic style, which is perhaps even more evident in the drapery on the ground together with a quiver, fully validate his authorship. These details are closely comparable, for instance, to Foggini's group of David and Goliath, which was sold at the Hotel Drouot on 29 November 2004 for 1,105,000 Euros (hammer price).
Foggini's interpretive cast of Giambologna's Hercules and the Centaur unites in one work the creative accomplishments of two protagonists of the glorious tradition of Florentine bronze sculpture: its original founder and the spiritus rector of its last flowering.
D. Zikos, 'Ercole e le dodici fatiche,' Giambologna: gli dei, gli eroi, exh. cat. Florence (Bargello), 2006, p. 175; T. Mozzati, ibidem, cat. no. 11, p. 179.
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