The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in a Museum

Torso of Hermes

The Legion of Honor - Joy of Museums 4

The Torso of Hermes, after Polykleitos, is a Roman marble sculpture of a torso, larger than life size, derived from an earlier Greek statue by the Greek sculptor Polykleitos (490–425 BC).

Polykleitos was an ancient Greek sculptor in bronze of the 5th century BCE. His Greek name Πολύκλειτος meant “much-renowned”. He is sometimes called the Elder, to distinguish him from his son, who was mainly an architect as well as sculptor.

Polykleitos was the first Greek sculptor to emphasize the muscular body of the athlete. He establishing the ideal proportions of the male body that was greatly admired and imitated.

This statue of Hermes, shows the god standing in an model used by Polykleitos, with the weight resting on the right leg, the left leg flexed. The demarcation of the planes of the body and the symmetry of the design were hallmarks of his style.

Hermes is an Olympian god in Greek religion and mythology, the son of Zeus. Hermes is considered a god of transitions and boundaries moving freely between the worlds of the mortal and divine. As an emissary and messenger of the gods he is the conductor of souls into the afterlife.

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Essential Facts:

  • Title:                     Torso of Hermes
  • Date:                     2nd century
  • Media:                  Pentelic Marble
  • Dimensions:        38 3/16 (97 cm)
  • Country:               Italy
  • Museums:            Legion of Honor

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“To you, the clever and crafty, bitter beyond all bitterness, who has sinned against the gods in bestowing honors upon creatures of a day–to you, thief of fire, I speak.” (Hermes addresses Prometheus) Aeschylus

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Photo Credit:1) By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons