Hermaphrodite

Roman
Imperial Period
about 20 B.C. to A.D. 40


Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), no. 029; Highlights: Classical Art (MFA), p. 168.

Dimensions

Weight: 58.1 kg (128 lb.) Overall: 78.5cm (30 7/8in.)

Accession Number

1981.754

Medium or Technique

Marble, probably from the Greek island of Paros

On View

Classical Roman Gallery (Gallery 213)

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Sculpture

Hermaphrodite was the product of the union of Venus and Mercury, whose names in Greek, Aphrodite and Hermes, were combined to form the name Hermaphrodite. Hermaphrodite combined the sexual attributes of both males and females and was worshipped as a deity at least from the fourth century B.C.Depictions of Hermaphrodite holding Cupid (in Greek, Eros, who was also Aphrodite’s son) may refer to a nurturing aspect while depictions of the exposed phallus may have had an apotropaic significance aimed at warding off evil.

This half-life-size statuette of a standing Hermaphrodite wears an “Egyptian”-style haircloth, broken at the sides; and a cloak over the right shoulder, which comes around back to cover his left hand on which the lower part of Eros sits. Hermaphrodite raises the robe to reveal its male genitals, a gesture known as anasyrmenos. There are remains of a bronze pin in the Eros where the upper body would have been attached.

A finger is broken off the Hermaphrodite’s right hand, most of his left foot missing.
From the Villa of the Contrada Bottaro near Pompeii. See also 1980.201-206 and 33.499 for additional objects from this site in the Museum of Fine Arts’ collection.

Scientific Analysis:
Isotope ratios - delta13C +5.228 / delta18O -2.778, Attribution - Paros-1.

Provenance

1901: found in the Villa Matrone (Villa of the Contrada Bottaro) near Pompeii, where the owner of the land, G. Matrone, was given permisssion to sell and/or export some of the finds in return for his gift of the most notable sculpture from the site to the Museo Nazionale in Naples; by dates unknown: in a succession of European and American private collections; Anonymous gift to MFA, December 31, 1981

Credit Line

Anonymous gift