Ithaca’s most famous naked man, Cornell’s Herakles statue, is back

Every couple of decades, even a Man of Steel needs a tune-up. Cornell’s iconic statue of Herakles, removed from campus this spring for restoration, came back to campus today. The bigger-than-life-size hero was sculpted by Professor Jason Seley in the early ’80s.

The Herakles statue on campus was removed from its perch in May. Photo via Johnson Museum.

The Herakles statue on campus was removed from its perch in May. Photo via Johnson Museum.

Seley was both a Cornell alum and a longtime professor of fine arts at the school, and a couple of years before his death in 1983, he used automobile bumpers to craft an interpretation of the Farnese Hercules, a statue from the early third century that’s in Naples, Italy.

The statue, dubbed “Herakles in Ithaka I,” stands between the Statler Hotel and Uris Hall, across the street from the Day Hall administration building and the Cornell Store. Staff at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art announced in May that Herakles was being removed from campus to be restored, and would miss this year’s graduation — but “he’ll be back as good as new this fall.”

Back at last! Staff set the statue of Herakles in place earlier today.

Back at last! Staff set the statue of Herakles in place earlier today.

It’s not the first time the 35-year-old statue was removed for restoration. Cornell says “the statue got a makeover from Williamstown Art Conservation Center conservators who repaired a hole in one foot and polished the metal” in the year 2000.

The Johnson Museum has another piece of artwork inspired by the ancient Farnese Hercules, a print of a 16th century Dutch engraving by Hendrik Goltzius.

Herakles is back on campus as of today, returned by museum staff to his familiar spot along East Avenue.

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