Farnese Hercules

The Farnese Hercules looks suitably magnificent installed in the large niche downstairs in the RA’s vaults:-


It is a cast of one of the best known classical antiquities, which is said to have been found in the Baths of Caracalla in 1546, six years after its head had been found in a well in Trastevere.   By 1556 it was installed in the first courtyard of the Palazzo Farnese, where it remained until 1787 when it was restored by Carlo Albacini and transferred to the Museo degli Studi in Naples.   This cast was acquired for the Entrance Hall in Somerset House in 1790 when Council agreed ‘that the President be empowered to make an Agreement for the Cast of the Farnese Hercules – the whole Expence to the placing of it in the Royal Academy not exceeding seventy five guineas’.   In the event the cost of transport alone, arranged by Joseph Bonomi, was £108.   He greeted visitors at the foot of the precipitous staircase in Somerset House until transferred to the Academy’s entrance hall in 1837.


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