Artistic representations of Hermes, graphic and plastic

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Artistic representations of Hermes, graphic and plastic

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marraskuu 3, 2016, 11:59 am

Hi all,

I'm searching for less well known versions of Hermes, presumably but maybe not exclusively of the "mystic" Hermes of the alchemists. I'm unfamiliar with Hermes lore myself and don't know the history of his occult dimension--was it there "always", is it a medieval novelty or what--nor how it was visually represented.

I've googled of course but so far what I'm seeing falls into about three categories; the bearded Greek shepherd god, the beardless Mercury, and the aged Hermes Trismegistus in a robe and cowl.

If anyone knows of something else, especially regarding the occult Hermes, I'd love to hear about it.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 3, 2016, 12:38 pm

The "Hermetic" writings per se (i.e. Corpus Hermeticum) are a product of antiquity, not the Middle Ages. Their significant reception was in the Italian Renaissance, contributing thus to "Early Modernity."

A different "occult Hermes" perhaps worth pursuing is Hermes psychompos, which makes him a god of the dead, functionally overlapping somewhat with Hades (the "hidden one") as having dominion over the mind when departed from the living body. In common with Hades, Hermes often wears a hat, emblematic of his "covered" (concealed, occult) character.

Here's a cool modern image, by Adolf Hiremy-Hirschl:

I think the Western medieval European Hermes/Mercury tended to be a personification of trade, while Hermes Trismegistus had more currency in the Medieval East, including Islamic Neoplatonism.

marraskuu 3, 2016, 12:47 pm

>2 paradoxosalpha:

Interesting, I assumed the hat is just the typical shepherd's headgear. Would you say it always has a mystical meaning as well (i.e. is not mere "costume"), such that people recognise?

Maybe I better give the context: an acquaintance is planning a sculpture of the "occult" Hermes, a male nude or nearly nude. The "nearly" maybe depends on what makes a representation of Hermes "mystical"--I'd have to check, it was a casual mention in a conversation--but I know he doesn't want it to be an old man in robes.

He's in the stage of seeking information and inspiration for the design and I guess he wants to know what's out there, to borrow wittingly or what he may end up borrowing unwittingly...

Thanks very much for that painting (neoclassical I'd say), I was curious about the more modern representations of Hermes. So there is a "mix" of versions, beardless Hermes with the staff, cape and the hat.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 3, 2016, 3:37 pm

>3 LolaWalser: the hat ... Would you say it always has a mystical meaning as well (i.e. is not mere "costume"), such that people recognise?

"Always" is too scary to agree to. I'll admit that much of my own attention to the mystical meaning of hats is derived from Hillman's The Dream and the Underworld, rather than works of art history or "positive" history of religion.

Here's a very influential modern image of Hermes, executed by Frieda Harris under the direction of Aleister Crowley:

No hat there, although traditional magicians, both in and out of the tarot trumps, do wear hats:

marraskuu 4, 2016, 1:54 pm

Basically a naked dude in a hat--(can't help thinking of Donatello's Perseus, of course, but it's up to the artist to distinguish between them)--or naked dude with a hat, cape, maybe staff... and let's hope some aura that screams "mysterium dei" rather than "flasher in a park"... :)

marraskuu 4, 2016, 2:28 pm

There is the famous ("FTD") sculpture in the Louvre which is about as lithe and glamorous and chapeau'd as it got for what started out as a pile of stones and/or a border herm with a bearded face and rigid tarse. (All due reverence observed.)

marraskuu 4, 2016, 3:07 pm

>6 Randy_Hierodule:

Yes, but I wonder if they convey the mystick je ne sais quoi... Interesting about the "staff"--in the Louvre sculptures it's quite definitely the caduceus, whereas in the Attic god pictures, as far as I saw, just the ordinary shepherd's hook.

Eh, maybe some liberties need to be taken...

Are tattoos, amulets and magical rings out of the question? ;)

marraskuu 4, 2016, 3:35 pm

The caduceus is in some of the amphora depictions as well as the cap (which to my eye portrays thought making winged or instantaneous connections, as well as adding a jaunty flair none of his colleagues - except for perhaps Athena? - adopted). Everything is permitted - so a swank metro-ephebish bit of all-season neckwear should not be overlooked:

marraskuu 4, 2016, 3:52 pm

Now that's a long way to come from romping with the sheep...

Hermes swift of foot and thought, good with his fingers too.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 4, 2016, 4:03 pm

I don't know about the sheep (though a god's life is bound to be sore in need of an occasional fluffy snuggle, just as anyone else's), but as an emblem of the concept of the intersecting point (which is a zone of commerce, and the point where theft and pure sacrifice meet - re the nicked cattle of the hymn), of "liminal space" (I think that's still a current jargon term?), he is, to me, an always interesting (because shady) deity.

marraskuu 4, 2016, 4:08 pm

SHADY! Absolutely--I just realised, all those white marbles are too LIGHT, too SHINY--the dark bronze versions are the direction to go in (well, if I had a say...) Hermes should emanate the night.

Isn't there sacred theft in some myths, rituals, initiations and whatnot? Oh right--and the Spartans, with their duty to thieve (IIRC). Although, ahem, maybe that's just what they had to do to get by, living off rocks and rain.

marraskuu 4, 2016, 4:12 pm

...she bare a son, of many shifts, blandly cunning, a robber, a cattle driver, a bringer of dreams, a watcher by night, a thief at the gates, one who was soon to show forth wonderful deeds among the deathless gods.


Muokkaaja: marraskuu 4, 2016, 4:43 pm

That is a lovely passage, and alongside to his sly exchange with the absolutely humorless hoarder, Apollo, my favorite.

It's interesting too, that a robustly conversational baby doesn't seem to disturb anyone in the skit. An Islamic connection having been made earlier, I will mention that Muslims also believe the freshly foaled Isa (Jesus) could hold his own in a debate before he had cut teeth - (this in addition to what other connections have likely been made with Christ before),

marraskuu 7, 2016, 11:00 am

And who can forget the brand, Hermes:

maaliskuu 23, 2017, 11:13 am

I keep meaning to reread Peter Vansittart's Hermes in Paris - and so perhaps this is a nudge to do so:

by David Mohan

In between cities, on the run from
border police, we met a stranger,
his cloak so white it seemed
it had been washed in cloud.

He took the road with us for a time,
talking a little of the storms and floods,
the riots in broken towns,
the guards placed on every port.

It was a time of darkness
he said, of armies bleeding
over maps like spilt ink,
a time to walk the roads

looking for better skies.
He was a sort of freelance envoy
he said, took letters across the continent,
as quick as thought itself.

A treaty was something
he made in his sleep;
a bargain in the market,
a stolen purse, a broken heart,

all of these, he said,
he could manage,
as easily as blinking.
He smiled at that and said

Go well on your way.
Stay off the main roads.
Take the paths through mountains,
he said, paths no army knows about.

Goat paths for hard times,
he said, where only gods and madmen go.

maaliskuu 23, 2017, 11:48 am

This has been a fabulously eclectic (th)read, kudos to all.

maaliskuu 23, 2017, 10:34 pm

Speaking of odd intersections and what you find there. I had noticed that "On this Day › 23 March" (3/23/17) John Davidson had died in 1909. I pulled one of his books off my shelf to read a few poems. The book, Fleet Street, and Other Poems, was published in 1909. The previous owner (whose bookplate reads "Ohne Dich Tod") had written in the date she had acquired the book, "3/23/18".

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