Height: 49.000 cm
Gift of Robert Goff
GR 1849.6-22.1 (Bronze 1195)
Room 22: Alexander the Great
Bronze figurine of Hermes
Hellenistic Greek, 200-100 BC
Said to be from Saponara, southern Italy
Hermes, the messenger of the gods
The wide-brimmed petasos (sun hat) probably identifies this superbly cast figure as Hermes, the messenger god. He would originally have held another of his attributes - the kerykeion (snake-entwined staff) - in his right hand. This figure, however, lacks the winged sandals that Hermes usually wears.
The male nude epitomises Classical art; gods, heroes, athletes and mortal men were often portrayed naked from an early period.
The sculptor Polykleitos had developed a canon of proportion for the male nude in the fifth century BC. However, this figure follows the proportions favoured by the sculptor Lysippos, who worked in the latter half of the fourth century BC. The male figures created by Lysippos and his followers are long-legged, slim-waisted and small-headed, yet they appear muscular and powerful. The stance of this figure, with the weight on one leg, the other bent, and the hand resting on the hip, is typical of the Hellenistic period (323-30 BC) and was widely adopted for royal portraits made at that time. The god's powerful musculature and detailed anatomy also suggest a Hellenistic date. It is not entirely clear what the functions of such statuettes were, but they may either have decorated domestic shrines or gardens, or have been given as offerings in sanctuaries.
T. Richard Blurton (ed.), The enduring image: treasures, exh. cat (British Council, 1997)