Exceptional bronze sculpture, bust of the god Mercury (1) on wooden base. Unsigned, c.1900.
(1) In Roman religion, Mercury is the god of merchants, commonly identified with the Greek Hermes son of Zeus and Maia. A popular deity, Hermes was the messenger of the gods who often led men astray. He was god of travelers and roads, of luck, of music and eloquence, of merchants and commerce, of young men, and of cheats and thieves. He was credited with having invented the lyre and the shepherd’s flute. is sometimes depicted holding a purse, symbolic of his business functions. More often he is given the attributes of Hermes and portrayed wearing winged sandals or a winged cap and carrying a caduceus.
The God Mercury in Art
Metamorphoses by Ovid – BOOK II
Mercury sees Herse
The god with the caduceus lifted upwards on his paired wings and as he flew looked down on the Munychian fields, the land that Minerva loves, and on the groves of the cultured Lyceum. That day happened to be a festival of Pallas, when, by tradition, innocent girls carried the sacred mysteries to her temple, in flower-wreathed baskets, on their heads. The winged god saw them returning and flew towards them, not directly but in a curving flight, as a swift kite, spying out the sacrifical entrails, wheels above, still fearful of the priests crowding round the victim, but afraid to fly further off, circling eagerly on tilted wings over its hoped-for prey. So agile Mercury slanted in flight over the Athenian hill, spiraling on the same winds. As Lucifer shines more brightly than the other stars, and golden Phoebe outshines Lucifer, so Herse was pre-eminent among the virgin girls, the glory of that procession of her comrades. Jupiter’s son was astonished at her beauty, and, even though he hung in the air, he was inflamed. Just as when a lead shot is flung from a Balearic sling it flies on and becomes red hot, discovering heat in the clouds it did not have before. He altered course, leaving the sky, and heading towards earth, without disguising himself, he was so confident of his own looks. Nevertheless, even though it is so, he takes care to enhance them. He smooths his hair, and arranges his robe to hang neatly so that the golden hem will show, and has his polished wand, that induces or drives away sleep, in his right hand, and his winged sandals gleaming on his trim feet.
Mercury elicits the help of Aglauros
There were three rooms deep inside the house, decorated with tortoiseshell and ivory. Pandrosus had the right hand room, Aglauros the left, and Herse the room between. She of the left hand room first saw the god’s approach and dared to ask his name and the reason for his visit. The grandson of Atlas and Pleione replied “I am the one who carries my father’s messages through the air. My father is Jupiter himself. I won’t hide the reason. Only be loyal to your sister and consent to be called my child’s aunt. Herse is the reason I am here. I beg you to help a lover.” Aglauros looked at him with the same rapacious eyes with which she had lately looked into golden Minerva’s hidden secret, and she demanded a heavy weight of gold for her services. Meanwhile she compelled him to leave the house.
Poem by Emanuel Geibel(1815-1884)
Zu Lübeck auf der Brücken
da steht der Gott Merkur.
Er zeigt in allen Stücken
Er wußte nicht von Hemden
in seiner Götterruh;
drum kehrt er allen Fremden
den bloßen Podex zu.