It is the first colossal statue executed by Canova. The work was commissioned by Aragonese prince Onorato Gaetani in 1795. Soon after however, he had to renounce to the work owing to his adverse political fate. When the French occupied Rome in 1798 they found this plaster in Canova’s Studio (Canova was in Possagno at the time) and they interpreted the work as an exaltation of the French Revolution (Hercules) capable of driving away the monarchy (Lichas). Canova proposed the marble to the Austrian Emperor Francis II to celebrate the victory of his imperial troops in Magnano in 1799 but the latter refused his proposal. Financier Giovanni Torlonia thus decided to purchase the finished work for 18,000 scudos – an exorbitant price for the time. The group was greatly appreciated during its presentation in 1815 and it was placed in a special large niche in the Torlonia Palace with lighting from above. Today the statue is at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome.


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