Bust of Omphale or Hercules


About this object

A small head on a small bust and a cylindrical foot. The face combines some masculine features such as a square jaw and pouchy cheeks with some feminine ones which are 18th century restorations: the slender nose and the tapering chin. The lips are slightly parted, the eyes looking out to the viewer. The head is broken on the neck. On the head there is a lion skin which is broken in many areas on its sides and was probably added to the head. The lion skin is tied in a knot at the front of the bust. This lion's skin suggests that this is probably the head of Hercules rather than Omphale whose representation in Roman sculpture is very rare. The hair is of an archaic fashion with long corkscrew locks at the forehead, the ends of the locks have extensive drillwork. Ashmole viewed this archaic fashion of hair as a feature of works from Asia Minor and of a fashion had survived until the 4th century BC. Bartman proposed the plaques from the Temple of Apollo in Palatine with the theme of the struggle between Hercules and Apollo for the Delphic tripod as the inspiration for the archaic representation of Hercules in this head. She also noted that the plaques also showed an oversize lion headress as the one in this head. The paws of the lionskin are too big and exaggerated and this may be the restorer's contribution to the piece. During Augustus time Hercules often became symbolic of fhe Greek East and of Antony. Dating the head is difficult because of the excessive overworking as well as because Hercules remained a favourite for Roman sculptors.

Object specifics

  • Type
  • Culture
  • Artist/Maker
  • Place made
    Europe: Southern Europe: Italy: Rome
  • Date made
  • Materials
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Acquisition
    Gift of Col. Joseph W Weld, 1959
  • Collector
    Henry Blundell
  • Place collected
  • Date collected
  • Measurements
    390 mm x 160 mm
  • Note
    Blundell misidentified the head as that of Iole, one of Hercules' favourite lovers and refers to the poisonous tunic which his wife Dejanira sent him to wear and destroyed him, quoting Ovid for the story. Ashmole identified it as Omphale, the queen of Lydia. he was married to the king Tmolus but after his death ruled in her own right. She bought Herakles when he was sold to slavery and made him perform many deeds on her behalf. She also had a son from Heracles Lamus. The theme of Omphale was popular in the Hellenistic period although it had also appeared during the Greek classical times.
  • Related people
    Henry Blundell ( Collector, previous owner); Joseph William Weld ( Previous owner)

Explore related


  • A Catalogue of the Ancient Marbles at Ince Blundell Hall

    Ashmole, Bernard

    Author: Ashmole, Bernard
    Publisher: Clarendon Press
    Date: 1929
    Description: An illustrated catalogue of the ancient sculptures collected by Henry Blundell and formerly at Ince Blundell Hall.

  • An Account of the Statues, Busts, Bass Relieves, Cinerary Urns, and other ancient marbles, and paintings at Ince. Collected by H.B.

    Blundell, Henry

    Author: Blundell, Henry
    Date: 1803

  • Ancient Marbles in Great Britain

    Michaelis, A

    Author: Michaelis, A
    Publisher: Cambridge University Press
    Date: 1882

  • The Ince Blundell collection of classical sculpture Volume III-The ideal sculpture

    Bartman, Elizabeth

    Author: Bartman, Elizabeth
    Publisher: Liverpool University Press
    Date: 2017
    Description: This book investigates the important antiquities collection formed by Henry Blundell of Ince Blundell Hall, near Liverpool, in the late eighteenth century. Consisting of more than 500 ancient marbles - the UK's largest collection of Roman sculptures after that of the British Museum - the collection was assembled primarily in Italy during Blundell's various 'Grant Tour' visits. As ancient statues were the preeminent souvenir of the Grand Tour, Blundell has strong competition from other collectors, British nobility and European aristocrats, monarchs, and the Pope. His statues represent a typical cross section of sculptures that would have decorated ancient Roman houses, villas, public spaces and even tombs, although their precise origins are largely unknown. Most are likely to have come from Rome and at least one was found at Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli.


Previous owners

  • Joseph William Col Sir Weld

    Owned from: 1958
    How acquired: By descent
    Owned until: 1959
    Disposal method: Donation
  • Henry Blundell

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Purchased
    Owned until: 1810
    Disposal method: Bequest
Object view = Humanities
Have 11 place tagsPage load time: 343 ms