Fragment of marble vase: Hermes carrying the infant Dionysos to the Nymphs of Nysa

Roman
Imperial, Hadrianic Period
about A.D. 125


Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 312; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 114 (additional published references).

Dimensions

Height x width: 35 x 15.5 cm (13 3/4 x 6 1/8 in.)

Accession Number

01.8213

Medium or Technique

Marble from Mt. Pentelikon near Athens

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Sculpture

The edges on either side of the figures are broken irregularly, as is the area at Hermes’ feet. The surfaces are somewhat worn but are clean, with a very light yellowish coloring.
Hermes, wearing his flat cap (petasos) and a medium-length cloak, moves resolutely to the right, carrying the infant Dionysos, who wears a vine wreath on his head and is wrapped in heavy swaddling clothes. A section of the rim of the krater is preserved above, with part of a vine leaf in which points of the drill are prominent.
The scene can be reconstructed from the famous marble krater once a baptismal font in the cathedral at Gaieta and now no. 283 in the Museo Nazionale, Naples. The vase in Naples is signed by Salpion of Athens. Amid various satyrs, maenads, and mymphs in more or less stock poses, Hermes carries Dionysos to a nymph who is seated to receive the child with a cloth in her outstretched arms. This central composition occurs on a number of rectangular panels and fragments of vases, where it was isolated or surrounded by varying combinations of Neo-Attic figures.
The fragment shown here is one of the best in quality of modeling, the rounding of Hermes’ body and the definitions of drapery being superior to those in the work of Salpion. The prototype of the composition belongs in the late fourth century, and the cutting of the leaves and isolated details of the head of Hermes indicate this krater was made in the time of Hadrian, when there was a vogue for such vases in the gardens at Tivoli and other elaborate villas near Rome.

Scientific Analysis:
Harvard Lab No. HI716: Isotope ratios - delta13C +2.63 / delta18O -5.09, Attribution - Pentelikon, Justification - Fine grained marble.

Provenance

By 1901: with E. P. Warren (according to Warren's records: Bought in Rome.); purchased by MFA from E. P. Warren, December 1901

Credit Line

Henry Lillie Pierce Fund