The statue of Hermaphroditos closes my Louvre trip (over 2 years after I actually visited it!). While the exquisitely crafted mattress it rests on was created by Bernini in the 17th century – and is a masterpiece in its own right – the statue itself is a Roman copy of a lost Greek original.
The legend of Aphrodite’s son fused in body with a nymph he had rejected (thanks to Zeus, of course, who had a penchant for messing things up!) is interesting too. The statue has male genitals and feminine curves, while the face is sufficiently ambiguous. The pose is classical Greek with a fluidity of form, a gentleness of curvature and a certain tension in the uplifted foot: it seems Hermaphroditos is about to turn in her/his sleep. Having seen the statue of Nike, I could only imagine what of the mood conveyed by the original creation might have been lost in translation, so to speak. While the Romans were experts at statuary, most of their work is still and awkward, resembling cardboard cut-outs more than living human form. They were, thankfully, good at copying too and a lot of lost Greek art comes to us through their Roman emulators.
Bernini’s button tufting does not completely succeed but still manages to soften the hard marble somewhat, evoking a certain softness which is remarkable, given the medium!