This sculpture was created by Antonio Del Pollaiuolo.It tells part of a story of Hercules.The subject is taken from Apollodorus . On his way back from the
Hesperides, Hercules engaged in a wrestling match with the giant Antaeus who was
invincible as long as some part of him touched the earth, from which he drew his
strength. Hercules held him in the air in a vice-like grip, until he weakened
and died. Hercules is depicted with his arms locked round the waist of Antaeus,
crushing the giant's body to his own.
Pollaiuolo's background as goldsmith equipped him to respond to the taste for
small bronzes in the last third of the 15th century. The statuettes, frequently
patinated to resemble antique bronzes, were meant for conoisseurs.
The Hercules and Anteus demonstrate Pollaiuolo's knowledge of anatomy and his ability to represent physical and emotional
violence. The group was famous in the artist's own lifetime: Leonardo studied it
and Michelangelo included a sketch of it on a sheet illustrating bronze casting.
It is one of the earliest appearences of a mythological subject in the round.
The unusual poses of the protagonists correspond to those painted by Pollaiuolo
on a panel in the Uffizi, which is related to a larger lost painting for the
Medici Palace. Sources: http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/p/pollaiol/antonio/sculptur/hercul2.html