Head of Hercules

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Head of Hercules

1st-2nd century A.D.,
H: 24 cm



A marble head depicting the aged Hercules, with thick curly hair and beard. The almond-shaped eyes are deep set and heavy lidded, conveying an impression of tiredness. The slightly downturned mouth is framed by a thick moustache. A simple fillet binds the hair. This head is based on the Greek sculpture of Hercules carved by Lysippos in the fourth century B.C., known today from a third-century A.D. copy that is in the National Museum in Naples. This image is known as the Farnese Hercules, or ‘Weary’ Hercules, as it shows the hero resting after the completion of his twelfth and final labour.

The original bronze Farnese Hercules was displayed in the Agora of Sicyon in the Peloponnese. The full figure shows the old and exhausted hero, barely able to stand and leaning on his club for support. He holds the apples of Hesperides, for which he had to take the place of the Titan Atlas in holding up the sky while he stole them for his eleventh labour. The original bronze has not survived, but it can be recognised in many Roman copies and adaptations. The sculpture is attributed to Lysippos based on the colossal version in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence, which has a Greek inscription reading ‘Lyssipos’ work’.


Previously in the Private Collection of Franz Trau (1881-1931) Vienna, from circa 1900. Possibly acquired by descent as part of the family collection; both his grandfather, Carl Trau (1811-1887), and his father, Franz Trau Snr (1842-1905), collected artworks and antiquities during their lifetimes.
With Mr Van der Fecht, Spittelberg, Vienna from before 1960.
Private Collection of Dr Peter Wolf, Böcklinstraße, Vienna, old master’s dealer and specialist, since before 1960, originally acquired from the above.
London art market, acquired from the above 14 August 2017 (but kept in Vienna).
Austrian art market, acquired from the above 2 October 2023 (accompanied by Austrian export license).
ALR: S00241521, with IADAA Certificate, this item has been checked against the Interpol database.

Note on the Provenance

Franz Trau Junior (1881-1931) was an avid collector of paintings and antiquities, with a special interest in Roman coins and classical archaeology. He was the grandson of French chemist, tea merchant and art collector (Japanese and Chinese ceramics, medieval art, prints and miniatures) Carl Trau (1811-1887) and son of Franz Trau Senior (1842-1905). Franz Snr was a renowned Viennese collector of classical antiquities who enjoyed both high social standing as a member of numerous committees and as an expert in ancient art. The eclectic art collection amassed by the three generations of this family was sold off in various auctions by H. Cubasch (Vienna) and Brüder Egger (Vienna) in the 1890s/1900s and after Franz Jnr's death in the 1930s by Gilhofer & Ranschburg (Vienna) and Adolph Hess (Luzern).

Mr Van der Fecht was an antique dealer in Spittelberg, Vienna.

Dr Peter Wolf is an Austrian antiques dealer and specialist in Old Master paintings. He is based in Vienna and has previously acted as the specialist consultant for Dorotheum Auction House, Vienna.