In the second part of a review of the work of sculptor Robert Page, Thomas Taylor shares his considerable knowledge of classical mythology to shed light on the famous winged messenger…
The deity depicted in Winged Messenger 2 is the Greek god Hermes, emissary and messenger of the gods. He was the patron of herdsmen, thieves, heralds, and travellers and was one of the youngest deities. He is practically always depicted with his winged sandals and winged cap.
Hermes had a pivotal role to play in the story of Troy. He allows the grieving Priam to enter the Greek camp unannounced and plead with Achilles to recover the abused body of his son, the Trojan hero Hector.
Hermes’ role as a deity was carried on as the Latinised god Mercury, where he retained many of his original functions and gained the title of God of Commerce. His defining feature is his winged cap. Robert Page has positioned it far back on the head to reveal youthful locks of windswept hair protruding from underneath. The hair adds movement to the sculpture, suggesting that Hermes has spent the day on the wind, running messages and errands for the Olympian gods at great speed, thanks to the swiftness gifted to him by his winged sandals.
Antique sculpture is famed for its ability to capture movement, and Page has encapsulated this perfectly. The cap, as well as allowing for the depiction of Hermes’ flowing hair, adds a touch of independence as the sculptor moves away from the traditional petasos, the wide-brimmed sun cap of Thessaly worn by farmers and travellers. Instead, he opts for a far smaller cap that leaves the face and ears uncovered, allowing his own style to emerge.
Hermes was a young deity, the second youngest behind Dionysus. It was common for ancient sculptors to portray youth with round cheeks, curly hair, and a face free of wrinkles and marks. What we have here is a depiction of the wear and tear that long travels and exposure to the elements have left. The chubby cheeks are abandoned in favour of a gaunt, sunken look that suggests hardship and fatigue. The eyes sit below a powerful brow, with eyebrows swooped back like the eyes of a formidable bird of prey, indicating focus and cunning. There is but a smack of vitality and youthfulness here, in a strong jaw and smile lines.
Page encapsulates the mischief so commonly associated with Hermes, who was renowned for playing tricks on immortals and mortals alike. Youthfulness is paired together with realism to complete the image of a young man who is worn away, both physically and mentally, by the strenuous activities of his own immortality.
The sculptor successfully brings a hint of Byzantine-influenced art into his classically-orientated piece, merging realism with traditionalism. It is indeed a fascinating work, and its creator expertly combines traditionalism with modern forms of realism. The result is exquisite and provides a gateway for many into understanding how ancient techniques shape the art we know and love today.
By Thomas Taylor, RBSA Marketing Intern
The RBSA puts on frequent artist demonstrations. Robert Page is with us today! You can see the sculptor at work at the RBSA Gallery, Saturday 31 March, 11am – 1pm and 2pm – 4pm.
Thomas Taylor is studying for a Masters in Antiquity, having completed an Undergraduate Degree in Ancient History at the University of Birmingham. He uses his knowledge of the world of Antique art to respond to contemporary works found in the RBSA Gallery.