The Farnese Bull, also titled the Farnese Hunt, formerly in the Farnese collection in Rome, is a massive Roman elaborated copy of an Hellenistic sculpture. Along with the rest of the Farnese antiquities, it has been since 1826 in the collection of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale Napoli in Naples, though in recent years sometimes displayed at the Museo di Capodimonte. The sculpture in Naples is much restored, and includes around the base a child, a dog, and other animals not apparently in the original composition, which is known from versions in other media. Pliny the Elder mentions what was presumably the prime version of it as the work of the Rhodian artists Apollonius of Tralles and his brother Tauriscus, stating that it was commissioned at the end of the 2nd century BC and carved from just one whole block of marble. It was imported from Rhodos- Greece, as part of the remarkable collection of artwork and sculpture owned by Asinius Pollio, a Roman politician who lived in Greece, during the years between the Republic and the Principate. This colossal marble sculptural group represents the myth of Dirce first wife of Lykos, King of Thebes. She was tied to a wild bull by the sons of Antiope, Amphion and Zethus, who wanted to punish her for the ill-treatment inflicted on their mother. The group was unearthed in 1546 during excavations at gymnasium of the Roman Baths of Caracalla, commissioned by Pope Paul III in the hope of finding ancient sculptures to adorn the Palazzo Farnese, the Farnese family’s palatial residence in Rome. This sculpture is dated to the Severian period (A.D. 222-235). The group underwent a substantial restoration in the 16th century, when Michelangelo planned to use it for a fountain to be installed at the centre of a garden between the Palazzo Farnese and the Villa Farnesina. It also could have been adapted for this use soon after it was found, which is supported by descriptions from the Renaissance era.
The series assembled here, introduces us to Apollonius of Tralles and his brother Tauriscus Farnesian Bull copy, as rebuilt in Naples archeological museum – a zoomed in contrasted detail, then its completed assembly. The third picture is that of the only reference to this grouping, which is an engraving by Etienne du Perac, which dates to 1595. After a detail view of the Farnese Bull’s head comes that of the Berlin plaster cast of the Farnese Bull, scaled down after the Neapolitan rebuild.