The Greek hero Herakles carries a club over his left shoulder and holds a lionskin in his right hand. These objects help identify the figure, since Herakles nearly always appears with a club and the skin of the Nemean Lion, which he killed as his first labor. As is typical for depictions of Greek heroes, the young Herakles is shown nude, since the Greeks considered male nudity to be the highest form of beauty. No other god or hero is as frequently depicted in Greek and Roman art as is Herakles.
The Lansdowne Herakles very likely was inspired by a lost Greek statue, probably from the school of Polykleitos from the 300s B.C. Found near the ruins of the villa of the Roman emperor Hadrian at Tivoli outside Rome, this statue was one of numerous copies of Greek sculpture commissioned by Hadrian, who loved Greek culture. The statue was named for Lord Lansdowne, who once owned the Herakles and displayed it in his home in London.