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Bearded Herm

Arte ellenistica

This herm might have been modelled after the Hermes Propylaios by the Attic sculptor Alkamenes, who was an associate of Phidias and active in the second half of the fifth century BCE. Another interpretation instead links the work to the Dionysus Lenaios by Agoracritus, dedicated in 430 BCE and also connected to the circle of Phidias.

The sculpture depicts a bearded divinity with hair pulled tight to the head in a topknot, an elongated face and a square beard. The face is framed by soft wavy curls and the rest of the hair is divided into two long locks that hang down on the back and chest. The sculpture can be considered a reformulation datable to the first century CE.

Object details

I secolo d.C.
Pentelic marble
Height with base 184 cm; height without base 151 cm

Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C., p. 47, no. 82. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1996-1998, L. Persichelli


This bust depicts a bearded male divinity with hair held close to the head by a band, from which escape stylised corkscrew curls parted in the middle to frame the face. The elongated face features high, protruding cheekbones, well-defined eyes and arched eyebrows. The closed mouth, with a full lower lip, is framed by a thick dropping moustache that extends well over the beard, which is squared and made up of rows of curls. The hair comes down over the back and the chest in two long wavy locks.

The archaising sculpture, datable to the first century CE, might be modelled on the Hermes Propylaios by the Attic sculptor Alkamenes, a student of Phidias and active in the second half of the fifth century BCE. The type is known primarily from two exemplars, the Ephesos-Leningrad and the Pergamon. Many variants of the first, which seems closest to the Borghese copy, survive: one, which seems to be the most faithful to the original, in the Museo Nazionale Romano alle Terme di Diocleziano, Rome (Paribeni 1953, p. 40, no. 60), one in Palazzo Altemps (De Angelis D’Ossat 2011, p. 56), two in Ostia (Von Steuben in Helbig 1972, pp. 11–12, no. 3002) and one in the Agora of Athens (Harrison 1965, p. 130, no. 168). The second is the inscribed herm found in Pergamon and now in Istanbul (Capuis 1968, pp. 35–38).

Various scholars, including Jiří Frelnel (1967), have, however, noted the presence of Ionic features in the Ephesos-Leningrad exemplar that would seem to link it to a different model, the Dionysus Lenaios, dedicated in 430 BCE, by the sculptor from Paros Agoracritus, who was a student of Phidias (Frel 1967, pp. 28–34). This theory would explain the abandonment of archaic rigidity found in the Borghese copy, which we can see especially in the soft, wavy curls on the figure’s forehead.

  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1840, p. 14, n. 19.
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno 1838, Roma 1841, p. 917, n. 19.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1854 (1873), p. 17, n. 19.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 27.
  • G. Giusti, La Galerie Borghèse et la Ville Humbert Premier à Rome, Roma 1904, p.24.
  • A. De Rinaldis, La R. Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1935, p.11.
  • E. Paribeni, Museo Nazionale Romano. Sculture greche del V secolo, Roma 1953.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, (3° Edizione) Roma 1954, p.10.
  • R. Calza, Catalogo del Gabinetto fotografico Nazionale, Galleria Borghese, Collezione degli oggetti antichi, Roma 1957, p.7, n.6.
  • E. B. Harrison, The Athenian Agora, XI: Archaic and Archaistic Sculpture, in “The American School of Classical Studies at Athens”, Princeton 1965.
  • J. Frel, Dionysos Lenaios, in “Archäologischer Anzeiger”, Heft 1, Berlin1967.
  • L. Capuis, Alkamenes. Fonti storiche e archeologiche, Firenze 1968.
  • W. Helbig, Führer durch die öffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertümer in Rom, IV, Tubingen 1972.
  • P. Moreno, Museo e Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, p.14.
  • P. Moreno, C. Sforzini, I ministri del principe Camillo: cronaca della collezione Borghese di antichità dal 1807 al 1832, in “Scienze dell’Antichità”,1, 1987, pp. 339-371, in part. p. 363.
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, in part. p.98, n.24.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, p.180, n. 158.
  • M. De Angelis D’Ossat, scheda in Palazzo Altemps: le collezioni, Milano 2011.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/00147847, P. Moreno 1976; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2020.