Vincenzo de' Rossi
The Labors of Hercules
Hall of the Five Hundred, Florence
everal sensuous aspects of this statue simultaneously assault the eyes of the beholder. It obviously some kind of weird looking wrestling match, and it would appear that Hercules is about to do what is called a body slam in modern commercial wrestling. We also cannot help but notice the participants are muscular and nude. Finally, our minds can hardly believe that Antaeus is actually grasping Hercules by his penis! There is no doubt about that last part.
If you know your Greek mythology, you will remember that Antaeus was the son of Poseidon, and that he challenged Hercules to wrestle. Hercules was on his Eleventh Task (Labor), but, not one to turn down a chance to fight, he took on Antaeus who gained his strength from touching the earth. In order to beat him, Hercules had to hold him in the air and keep his feet off the earth. And why is Antaeus grabbing the penis of Hercules? Was he fighting unfair and "hitting below the belt" -as we would say? Was his touching his opponent's genitals a sign of recognizing the superiority of Hercules? I like to think he was gay and was just copping a feel. At any rate, if they would wrestle this way these days, a lot more people would tune in the events!