Male torso (Mercury?)

Roman
Imperial Period
1st half of the 1st century A.D.


Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 142; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 111 (additional published references); Highlights: Classical Art (MFA), p. 164-165.

Dimensions

Overall: 120 x 58 x 30 cm (47 1/4 x 22 13/16 x 11 13/16 in.)

Accession Number

01.8190

Medium or Technique

Marble from Mount Pentelikon near Athens

On View

Greek & Roman Sculpture Gallery (Gallery 211)

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Sculpture

The large-scale male torso bears the weight of the body on the left leg; the right hip swings outwards. As a result of this contrapposto stance, the left hip, left buttock and right shoulder are slightly lowered and the spinal column curves in an S-shape to the right.

Condition: Breaks along the bottom of the neck, right upper arm, left arm above the elbow, genitalia, and left knee and right thigh. Remnant of a strut visible on the back of the right thigh. Veins and inclusions in the marble. Surface mottled with pale brown stains and gashes throughout.


Male torso (Mercury?)
Roman, Imperial period
Early or mid-1st century A.D.
 Marble

Henry Lillie Pierce Fund, 1901 01.8190

This torso was heavily influenced by one of the most famous ancient sculptures, the Doryphoros (“Spear bearer”) of Polykleitos, a leading Greek artist of the fifth century B.C. Polykleitos may have created the Doryphoros to exemplify the ideal proportions of the human body, about which he also wrote a treatise. The Polykleitan body type is characterized by a pronounced swing of the hips counterbalanced by an opposing slope of the shoulders, as well as clear definition of each muscle. Statues emulating Polykleitos’s ideal were extremely popular in the early Roman imperial period. This version may represent Mercury (the Greek Hermes), the messenger god, and would have held a herald’s staff instead of a spear.

Provenance

Possibly by 1726, Francesco Trevisan (b. 1658 - d. 1732), Venice [see note 1]; 1732, by inheritance to his nephews, children of Soretta Trevisan and Giovanni Suarez; 1808, by inheritance to Angelo I Giacomo Giustiniani Recanati (b. 1757 - d. 1813), Palazzo alle Zattere, Venice; by 1847, possibly still in Giustiniani collection, Venice [see note 2]. By 1901, purchased in Rome by Edward Perry Warren (b. 1860 - d. 1928), London; 1901, sold by Edward Perry Warren to the MFA. (Accession Date: December 1, 1901)

Notes:
[1] See Irene Favaretto, Arte Antica e Cultura Antiquaria nelle Collezioni Venete al Tempo della Serenissima (Rome, 1990), p. 380, pl. 55, showing an engraved illustration of this torso, then in the form of a full-length figure, in a 1726 publication of the Trevisan collection (Museo Trevisan catalogue, no. 43, “Figura apollinea in piedi a braccia aperte, con tronco presso la gamba destra”), which Favaretto identifies as the MFA object. It is difficult to securely identify this torso with the work in the Trevisan collection in part due to earlier restorations present in the 18th century that have since been removed. The torso may correspond to a torso mentioned in Verona Illustrata vol. III (1732), p.367, by Scipione Mafeii. According to Edward Perry Warren’s records, the torso was said to come from Venice, without naming a specific location.

[2] The torso may have remained in the collection, Venice, as late as 1847 since a torso described as Bacchus with locks of hair reaching the shoulders appears in the Palazzo alle Zattere in the travel journal Reisen in Italien seit 1822 (1826), p.258, and a torso described as Meleager is also mentioned as being there in a publication on Venetian history and society, Venezia e le sue lagune (1847), pp. 479-480. No other description allows to securely identify those torsos with the MFA piece. It is unclear when the Trevisan-Giustiniani collection was sold (on the dispersal of the collection, see Favaretto 1990 (as above, n. 1), pp. 193-195). Acquisitions of portraits from the collection by the Glyptotek in Copenhagen in 1887 and statues by the Antikensammlung in Berlin in 1897 suggest the dispersal of the collection around this time, although it may have occurred earlier.

Credit Line

Henry Lillie Pierce Fund