Farnese Hercules (1592)
by Hendrick Goltzius
Goltzius (1558-1617), was a German-born Dutch printmaker, draftsman, and painter. He was the number-one Dutch engraver of the early Baroque period, noted for his sophisticated technique and the exuberance of his compositions.
Goltzius had a deformed right hand, the result of injury from a fire when he was an infant. The hand turned out to be especially well-suited to holding engraving tools.
When he was 21-years-old, Goltzius married a much older widow. Her money enabled him to establish his own business. But, the little gold-digger found sex with his wife so unpleasant it affected his health. So, he and his buddies set out on a grand tour of the Continent. Finding himself in better spirits and in considerably improved health, he returned home and worked there until his death at 59-years-old.
In the 1580s, Goltzius, along with his friends Karel van Mander and Cornelis van Haarlem, founded an Art Academy in Haarlem inspired by the ones they visited in France and Italy, where the human figure could be studied from live models and to provide a place for artists to hang out, chat and do their thing.
Goltzius’s etching of the ancient Roman statue known as the Farnese Hercules had been discovered in the Baths Of Caracalla in Rome in 1546 and installed in a courtyard of the Farnese family’s palace on the banks of the Tiber where Goltzius and pals happened to stop by to sketch that fine ass while on their tour.
Everything about his etching is gay-gay-gay, from the amazing rendering of the perfect muscles to those two queens in the right-hand corner taking a gander at Hercules’ package and astoundingly uncut phallic pediment he rests on, both uncut.
Goltzius’s engraving can be seen at The Met, in the Dutch Well-Hung Room.