Hermes Carrying The Infant Dionysos

Sculpture has been a very important part of art history throughout thousands of years. For the past few months I have viewed many different kinds of sculpture, including Greek archaic sculptures, Greek classical sculptures, Greek Hellenistic sculptures and Roman sculptures. All of the sculptures that I have seen and analyzed have very interesting characteristics, but the one that I have analyzed most recently was the most fascinating. Hermes carrying the infant Dionysos, by the artist Praxiteles, was sculpted circa 350 B.C., and the copy that I analyzed, circa second century B.C. This sculpture was from the Greek classical period and is originally from Greece. The original can be seen in the Olympia Museum in Greece, and the replica that I have viewed is in the Sojourner Truth Library on SUNY New Paltz campus.
The sculpture of Hermes carrying the infant Dionysos was a very interesting work of art to look at and analyze. I have viewed this sculpture by means of slides on a flat surface, but after seeing the actual sculpture, I was amazed. When I first approached it, its size was shocking. I was unaware that this figure stood so tall. Hermes and Dionysos together were approximately seven to seven and a half feet tall, and approximately three feet wide, including the base that Hermes was standing on.
As most of Praxiteles’ sculptures were, this sculpture was originally made of marble, but the copy viewed was made of plaster cast. Hermes posture was rather relaxed, with one arm reaching upward, and the other arm bent at the elbow, holding Dionysos. The clothing worn by Hermes and Dionysos was scarce. Both were nude, which was typical during this time period, and Praxiteles was actually the “inventor” of creating nude sculptures. Although the two figures are nude, Hermes is wearing sandals, and the drapery is partially covering Dionysos’ legs. Hermes hairstyle is short, curly and unfinished looking, while Dionysos’ hair is very vague.
Finally, the physical condition of the sculpture is remarkably decent-looking, considering it’s age. Hermes is missing pieces of his body, such as his right arm after his bicep, the left index finger and thumb, and his penis. Hermes’ big toe is chipped, and there are chips and scratches sporadically throughout his body that have been painted over. His left arm and hand seem to have been detached and reattached again as well. As for Dionysos, he is in very good condition except for his left hand, which is missing.
From an artist’s perspective, many other components were considered while viewing this work of art. One of those components was composition. In relation to each other, Hermes is very large while Dionysos is significantly smaller. In relation to the air that surrounds them, the sculpture is well balanced, and is pleasant to the eye. Another component is line. The line in this sculpture is very painterly, except for the drapery, which is very linear. Throughout the body of Hermes a painterly line is very evident. For example, in his torso, the muscles can be seen but they are soft and almost created by shadow. In the drapery, the line is sharp and it is obvious where the folds are. On Dionysos’ legs, contour folds are also evident and give the effect that his legs are underneath the drapery, although you cannot see them.
Form is the third component. The body of Hermes has very subtle form because of how painterly the line is. Form is only direct in the drapery, which has a three-dimensional effect. As for figural style, Hermes’ body is anatomically correct, proportionate and muscular. The only thing that does not seem proportionate is Hermes’ body as opposed to Dionysos. The texture of this sculpture is smooth except for the few sporadic chips, and there is no color, only the use of shadow.
The final component, movement, is very effectively done. Hermes is in a contrapposto stance with one leg forward and bent at the knee, and the right hip is higher than the left. His entire body is in an “s” shape curve, which is because his head is facing left, his right hip is raised and the left one is lowered, and his left leg is forward. This curve is a very effective way to bring the viewer’s