A large cast bronze figure of the Roman god Mercury. This well-detailed figure depicts the messenger god nude, except for his distinctive winged helmet. He stands, holding a purse in his left hand. Roman imperial period, 1st - 2nd Century A.D.
This would have been a religious figure, perhaps made to be kept in a wealthy home and prayed to, deposited in a temple as an offering, or kept for ritual with other objects by priests.
Condition: Very fine example with a beautiful deep green patina. The proportions are excellent. Missing right hand.
Dimensions: 23cm (with plinth) x 11.5cm (figure).
Provenance: From my own collection. Purchased at Lockdales Auctioneers (2006). Previously Ex. private collection, Suffolk, UK; acquired from an older British collection established mid to late 20th Century. Reputedly found near a river, UK, which together with the broken off right hand, supports a votive offering.
Mercury (Latin Mercurius) in Roman religion was the god of shopkeepers and merchants, travelers and transporters of goods, and also thieves and tricksters. He is commonly identified with the Greek Hermes, the fleet-footed messenger of the gods.
The cult of Mercury is ancient, and tradition has it that his temple on the Aventine Hill in Rome was dedicated in 495 BC. There Mercury was associated with Maia, who became identified as his mother through her association with the Greek Maia, one of the Pleiades, who was the mother of Hermes by Zeus; likewise, because of that Greek connection, Mercury was considered the son of Jupiter. Both Mercury and Maia were honoured in the Mercuralia festival on May 15, the dedication day of Mercury’s temple on the Aventine. Mercury is sometimes represented as holding a purse (seen in this figure) symbolic of his business functions.
Based on archaeological evidence, Mercury appears to have been the most popular God in Roman Britain. Indeed, he was adopted as one of the Celtic deities which explains why so many figures of Mercury were produced in Britain. Almost certainly deliberately broken and buried or deposited in a river as a votive offering. An inspiring and evocative object.
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