Origin: Italian
Period: Early/Mid 18thC
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1700-50
Width: 10.5”
Height: 19.5”
Depth: 11”

The early sculpted terracotta bust of Hermes or Mercury,  the whole with weathering and a very honest and well established patina, facing dexter and gazing slightly downward conveying a dreamy, almost wistful expression, with tight short curled hair and the distinctive flat cap, or petasos, to an integral plinth base, the whole surviving from the first half of eighteenth century Italy.

The condition of the bust is stable and honest in its historical repairs, a testament to its age. Indeed, it could even be earlier than the early eighteenth century. There is damage to the nose and to the petasos extremities, losses to the hair curls to the front and he has had repairs to the neck with a chip to the front flank. Please refer to the photographs for a full visual reference.

The Greek god Hermes (the Roman Mercury) was the god of translators and interpreters. He was the cleverest of the Olympian gods, and served as messenger for all the other gods. He ruled over wealth, good fortune, commerce, fertility, and thievery.

The tradition of making sculpture in terracotta represents one of the signal artistic accomplishments of ancient Italian cultures before and during the rise of Rome as the dominant regional power. From Pliny the Elder we learn that in the seventh century bc, an exiled Corinthian merchant, Demaratus, introduced the fashioning of figures from baked earth, an art that was “brought to perfection by Italy and especially by Etruria” .

Until the 18th Century, English collections of antiquities had consisted mainly of small, easily portable objects such as coins, intaglios and bronzes. Only a few very wealthy and powerful patrons, most notably Charles I and Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel and Surrey (1585–1646), were able to acquire ancient sculpture. This was to change dramatically by the second half of the 18th Century. As the craze for classical art and sculpture swept over Britain and the rest of Europe, Rome established itself as the centre to which English milordi flocked in pursuit of culture and souvenirs.

An early example of its type, delightfully honest and true with a very authentic feel and one that could tell many a story.