Seated Hermes

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Bronze statue of seated male youth in a museum
Bronze Seated Hermes from Herculaneum
Illustration of bronze statue of a nude male youth, seated on a rock with one leg outstretched, from the 1908 volume Buried Herculaneum by Ethel Ross Barker; caption reads "Mercury in Repose"
This sculpture has also been identified as depicting Mercury.[1]

The bronze Seated Hermes, found at the Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum in 1758, is at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.[2] "This statue was probably the most celebrated work of art discovered at Herculaneum and Pompeii in the eighteenth century", Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny have observed,[3] once four large engravings reproducing it had appeared in Le Antichità di Ercolano, 1771.[4] To protect it from Napoleonic depredations, it was packed into one of the fifty-two cases of antiquities and works of art that accompanied the Bourbon flight to Palermo in 1798. It was once again in the royal villa at Portici in 1816 (Haskell and Penny 1981:269).

Martin Robertson (1975, vol I:474) classifies it as a Roman copy, made before AD 79, needless to say, of a Greek bronze original of the late fourth or early third century BC, in the tradition of Lysippos, whose name has been invoked in connection with the sculpture since its first reappearance. Margarete Bieber classifies it as "school of Lysippos" and dates it ca 100 BC.[5] Many bronze statues posed on actual rocks must have been set up in late Hellenistic and Roman gardens, where, Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway suggests,[6] natural boulders "increased the idyllic aspect of the composition." The Hermes rests his hand casually on the (restored) rock, integrating the composition.


  1. ^ "Buried Herculaneum". 1908.
  2. ^ NM 5625; illustrated in Margarete Bieber, the Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age, 1961:figs. 106-07.
  3. ^ Taste and the Antique: the Lure of Classical Sculpture 1500-1900, 1981, p. 267
  4. ^ Volume VI, 1771, pp. 113-22.
  5. ^ Bieber 1961:162
  6. ^ Ridgway, "The Setting of Greek Sculpture" Hesperia 40.3 (July - September 1971:336-356) pp 346f.


  • Haskell, Francis, and Nicholas Penny, 1981. Taste and the Antique: the Lure of Classical Sculpture 1500-1900 (Yale University Press), cat. no. 62, pp 267–269.
  • Mattusch, Carol C. 2005. The Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum. Life and Afterlife of a Sculpture Collection. (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum), esp. chapter 5 and pp. 88–89, 216-222, and fig. 2.43.
  • Robertson, Martin, 1975. A History of Greek Art (Cambridge University Press)