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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571)

Criticism of a Statue of Hercules

From The “Autobiography

BANDINELLO was incensed to such a degree that he was ready to burst with fury, and turning to me said, “What faults have you to find with my statues?”

I answered, “I will soon tell them, if you have but the patience to hear me.”

He replied, “Tell them, then.”

The duke and all present listened with the utmost attention. I began by premising that I was sorry to be obliged to lay before him all the blemishes of his work, and that I was not so properly delivering my own sentiments as declaring what was said of it by the artistic school of Florence. However, as the fellow at one time said something disobliging, at another made some offensive gesture with his hands or his feet, he put me into such a passion that I behaved with a rudeness which I should otherwise have avoided.

“The artistic school of Florence,” said I, “declares what follows: If the hair of your Hercules were shaved off, there would not remain skull enough to hold his brains. With regard to his face, it is hard to distinguish whether it be the face of a man, or that of a creature something between a lion and an ox; it discovers no attention to what it is about; and it is so ill set upon the neck, with so little art and in so ungraceful a manner, that a more shocking piece of work was never seen. His great brawny shoulders resemble the two pommels of an ass’s pack-saddle. His breasts and their muscles bear no similitude to those of a man, but seem to have been drawn from a sack of melons. As he leans directly against the wall, the small of the back has the appearance of a bag filled with long cucumbers. It is impossible to conceive in what manner the two legs are fastened to this distorted figure, for it is hard to distinguish upon which leg he stands, or upon which he exerts any effort of his strength; nor does he appear to stand upon both, as he is sometimes represented by those masters of the art of statuary who know something of their business. It is plain, too, that the statue inclines more than one-third of a cubit forward; and this is the greatest and the most insupportable blunder which pretenders to sculpture can be guilty of. As for the arms, they both hang down in the most awkward and ungraceful manner imaginable; and so little art is displayed in them that people would be almost tempted to think that you had never seen a naked man in your life. The right leg of Hercules and that of Cacus touch at the middle of their calves, and if they were to be separated, not one of them only, but both, would remain without a calf in the place where they touch. Besides, one of the feet of the Hercules is quite buried, and the other looks as if it stood upon hot coals.”