Historical information

This ‘heroic size’ reclining figure is a copy made from one of The Parthenon Sculptures currently housed at The British Museum, and thought to represent the river-god Ilissos.

This piece was part of the Ballarat Technical Art School's collection of reference for art studies, and became affectionately known as 'Hercules' by subsequent student cohorts. The cast was likely made by Brucciani and Co. London, and part of a consignment delivered to the School during the 1920s.

This cast replicates one of a number of relics acquired by Thomas Bruce, seventh Earl of Elgin and ambassador to Turkey, (Lord Elgin) in Athens in the early 19th century. (Hence, these works were sometimes collectively referred to as the Elgin Marbles). Ownership of the artefacts, once part of the 2,500-year-old Parthenon temple, is disputed by Greece. It maintains that Elgin removed them illegally while the country was under Turkish occupation as part of the Ottoman Empire. The items were sold to the British Museum in 1816 and have remained there ever since.

The original "Ilissos" was located on the west pediment of the Parthenon in Greece, and was created in c435 BC. It is unknown if the statue was in position or had already fallen when removed from the Parthenon by Elgin.

The Royal Academy London also holds a copy of this plaster cast.

The Ballarat Technical Art School boasted a well-stocked Antique Room replete with plaster copies of classical, Renaissance and Gothic sculptural examples, which were used as drawing props by students. The school inherited some casts from its predecessor institutions, and further consignments were purchased during the 1920s, including full length, bust and relief figures, as well as dozens of ornamental and architectural casts. Unfortunately, much of the collection was lost or destroyed in the late 1950s.


Quality examples of heroic sized plaster replicas are now rare, as many plaster collections were destroyed or lost when the copy of antique examples fell out of favour with art schools.

Physical description

Plaster cast used during Drawing classes at the Ballarat Technical Arts School. It is likely a headless depiction of the river god Ilissos.