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Work: Hermes and Dionysius

Copy of sculpture

Hermes and Dionysius (cast in plaster)


175 cm high, 71 cm wide, 43 cm deep (detail)
cast from the original
alabaster plaster
Greek and Roman


350 - 330 BC
215 cm high
Museum of Olympia, OlympiaSi apre in una nuova finestra


Eager apostle of beauty, Praxiteles makes it triumph as no-one else in every sculpture, glowy, radiant, immortal”. Emanuel Lowy

“Hermes and the infant Dionysius”, carved in marble (340 – 330 BC), is one of the few surviving sculptures by Praxiteles, not a roman copy, but an original artwork. Found in the temple of Hera at Olympia,the work shows an episode from the childhood of Dionysius when he was entrusted to Hermes by his father Zeus, so that he could observe the infant.

Hermes’ body is depicted in a standing pose, but completely relaxed, with the the torso almost set obliquely. Because of this structure the group as a whole has been moved away from the axis of gravity, and this conveys a powerful sense of instability but also of energy.
External elements such as the tree trunk and the drapery are used to support the entire artwork’s weight.
Hermes, here portrayed more human than divine, is characterized by a languorous face, turned toward the brother. The modeling is soft and free of any sharpness, the muscles are soft and unpronunced, almost effeminate. The god originally was raising the now missing right arm, probably holding grape. Dyonisus (now lost) was sitting on Hermes left arm, holding his shoulder for support.

Praxilites’ artistic research differs profoundly from the preceding Phidias’ sculpture and marked the beginning of a new conception of man’s relationship to nature, which will built up a large following in the Hellenistic period. Praxiteles was working in unsettled times as Athenian democracy was in a period of deep crisis and new invasions by the Persians loomed. These events also contributed to the slow change away from traditional religious belief in the gods of Olympus. The Greeks no longer felt spiritual support for them.
The Gods of Olympus continued to be one of Praxiteles’ favourite themes, but they were reduced to a more human, less detached level with a greater emphasis on the naturalistic element. Even the Classical rule of balanced equilibrium was broken by Praxilites, choosing to give his human figures unstable poses.

Image Museo Omero photo archive