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Hermes and the young Dionysus or Dionysus and Maenad

Italian (Neapolitan) School or British (English) School

Category

Art / Sculpture

Date

circa 1895 - circa 1925

Materials

Marble

Measurements

57 in (Height)

Order this image

Collection

Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire

NT 516669

Summary

Marble, Hermes and the young Dionysus, alternatively Dionysus and maenad, Italian (possibly Neapolitan) School late 19th–early 20th century, after the antique. A double or janiform herm with Hermes and the young Dionysus, alternatively Dionysus and maenad back to back. Hermes/Dionysus in the archaizing style, with heavy waved fringe forming a hood-like lid over the face, and locks of wavy hair falling at the shoulders. His beard wavy with an inverted palmette/anthemion motif below chin and curling moustache. The young Dionysus/maenad with wavy hair parted at centre, wearing a wreath of ivy berries and vine. Mounted on tall, thin marble pedestal. Part of a set of four janiform hermai stationed at the corners of an intersection of four pathways, near the Rose Garden of Anglesey Abbey (see NT 516668, 516670–516671).

Full description

The herm is a type of Ancient Greek sculpture associated with Hermes, messenger of the gods and protector of borders, roads, and travellers. Hermai in their earliest form were piles or blocks of stone representing the deities, and later developed into quadrangular pillars topped with a sculpted head and phallus, most often depicting Hermes. Hermai were venerated objects and placed at strategic points along roadsides or crossroads, outside of houses or to mark boundaries. They were believed to ward off evil, bring luck, wealth, and in some parts of Greece fertility. The two-faced rendering of hermai is a Roman variation invoking Janus, the god of transitions and journeys, of gates, doorways and passages, of beginnings and endings, and of duality. Janus himself is usually depicted bifrons, with one face looking to the future and one to the past. As with Hermes Janus is a mediator between different worlds and in this respect the janiform hermai represent opposing and complimentary relationships such as old and young, divine and mortal, god and follower, male and female, husband and wife. The Anglesey Abbey examples, placed at the junction of four pathways leading to and from house and garden, are typical of the janiform type. The husband-wife/male-female pairing is seen in NT 516668 ad NT 516670, with Dionysus and Zeus and their consorts Ariadne and Hera back to back, while NT 516671 is an example of the young/old juxtaposition in which Hermes is depicted as a beardless youth and as a bearded adult in the Propylaios style. NT 516669 could represent the fraternal bond in an adult Hermes paired with a youthful Dionysus, his youngest sibling, or the god/follower relationship with Dionysus, god of wine, paired with one of his female followers (maenads). At the turn of the 20th century janiform hermai depicting Silenus and a bacchante and Dionysus and Ariadne were found in the peristyle of the House of the Vettii, considered to be the best preserved domus in the ancient city of Pompeii. Excavated for the first time between 1894 and 1896, the hermai are of similar proportions to the Anglesey Abbey group and are mounted on tall cylindrical pillars carved with a twining ivy motif. According to Lanning Roper, the hermai were brought to Anglesey Abbey from Park Close, the Surrey home of Lord Fairhaven’s mother Cara Rogers Broughton who had apparently purchased them in Naples. As was the practice in Florence and Rome, it is likely that Neapolitan sculpture workshops were producing reproductions or derivations of local antiquities for the tourist market. Alice Rylance-Watson August 2019

Credit line

Anglesey Abbey, The Fairhaven Collection (The National Trust)

Makers and roles

Italian (Neapolitan) School or British (English) School , sculptor

References

Roper 1964: Lanning Roper, The Gardens of Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. The Home of Lord Fairhaven, London 1964, p. 40. Christie, Manson & Woods 1971: The National Trust, Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge. Inventory: Furniture, Textiles, Porcelain, Bronzes, Sculpture and Garden Ornaments’, 1971, p. 173.

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