University of Kansas, Lippincott Hall

Hermes & Infant Dionysus

The original of this statue was found in 1877 by a team of German archaeologists excavating in the sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia in the Peloponnese (not to be confused with Mt. Olympus in northern Greece). The nearly complete statue (original missing the right forearm, left foot, and parts of the infant's arms) stood in the temple of Hera (Juno) at the site. Greek and Roman temples were often used as 'museums' for displaying works of art. We see the adult god Hermes (Roman Mercury) holding his baby brother, Dionysos (Bacchus). Hermes dangles something, now lost, and baby Dionysos reaches toward it. (Our cast restores a bunch of grapes along with the baby's arm, on the evidence of a Roman wall-painting from Pompeii).

The statue was long thought to be the actual Greek master-piece by the sculptor Praxiteles (4th c. B.C.) mentioned by the traveler Pausanias (ca. A.D. 160) as being in the temple (Guide to Greece 5.17.7). Most scholars now, however, consider it a late Hellenistic or Roman work of the 1st c. B.C. in Praxitilean style. Rasp and chisel marks reveal a partial reworking of the back. Traces of red paint may indicate that Hermes' hair, lips, and sandals were gilded originally. Olympia Archaeological Museum (Greece). Marble. H. 2.10 m. (7 ft. 1 in.); 2.28 if the right arm is restored. 

Featured item:

Nike (Victory) of Samothrace (reduced size)
Modern plaster replica (given to the Wilcox by the KU Department of French and Italian) at a about 1/2 scale of a Greek original of ca. 190 BCE (original is just over 8 ft tall). According to the small metal oval in the back, the cast was purchased from the Caproni Bros. cast company of Boston probably in 1885.

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