Lot 39
  • 39

A Roman Black Marble Herm Head of Hermes, circa 2nd Century A.D

35,000 - 45,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • A Roman Black Marble Herm Head of Hermes
  • basalt
  • Height 29 cm.
his face with with long rounded beard composed of four tiers of voluted curls, long moustache, high cheekbones, and almond-shaped eyes, his wavy hair radiating from the crown, bound in a fillet, arranged in three rows of corkscrew curls above the forehead, and falling over the nape of the neck; no restorations.


Swiss private collection, Basel, acquired in the 1950s/1960s, reputedly from Herbert Cahn, Münzen und Medaillen, Basel
Christoph F. Leon, Riehen
acquired by the present owner from the above


Dietrich Willers, "Zum Hermes Propylaios des Alkamenes," Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, vol. 82, 1967, p. 92f., no. 10, figs. 60ff.
Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, vol. 5, p. 298, no. 52
Tatjana Brahms, Archaismus. Untersuchungen zu Funktion und Bedeutung archaistischer Kunst in der Klassik und im Hellenismus, Frankfurt, 1994, p. 300, no. 17,2
Heike Gregarek, "Untersuchungen zur kaiserzeitlichen Idealplastik aus Buntmarmor," Kölner Jahrbuch, vol. 32, 1999, p. 174f., no. A21, fig. 38
Edith Krämer, Hermen bärtiger Götter. Klassische Vorbilder und Formen der Rezeption, Münster, 2001, p. 98, no. 1
Markus Trunk, Die "Casa de Pilatos" in Sevilla, Mainz, 2002, p. 220.

Catalogue Note

Son of Zeus and Maia, Hermes is the protector of travellers and the messenger of the gods, for his speed abilities. As their herald, he accompanied the dead in the afterlife, and he was called Psychopompós, “conductor of souls”. In Rome he was known as Mercury, and he was the god of commerce, derived from merx (merchandise), mercari (to trade).

The present lot is a typical archaistic representation of Hermes, distant from the classical and Hellenistic representation of gods and heroes. This type is known as “Hermes Propylaios” (Hermes Before the Gate), as a reference to the example found in 1903 in Pergamon and believed to be part of the “Propylaia” (the entrance gate) of the Acropolis in Athens. Academics initially credited that example as a replica of the Hermes carved by Alkamenes, renowned master in Athens in the 5th century B.C. However this attribution has been contested by several scholars, who suggested that “Propylaios” was not a reference to a particular gateway, but an epithet to Hermes and that it would be more advisable that these types of archaistic heads represent not a work by a specific carver.