After the Antique: A patinated Bronze Figure of Mercury, seated on a rocky base, circa 1880


Mercury is the patron god of financial gain, commerce, eloquence, communication, travellers, boundaries, luck, trickery and thieves; he is also the guide of souls to the underworld.


This bronze is based on the Seated Mercury discovered on 3rd August 1758 at Herculaneum. Scholars believe this Roman statue was made after A.D. 79 and modelled on the Greek original made in the late fourth or early third century in the tradition of Lysippus. It became one of the most celebrated works discovered at Herculaneum and Pompeii during the eighteenth century, and is now at the Museo Nazionale, Naples. Related Literature: Taste and the Antique, F. Haskell & N. Penny, Yale University Press, 1981.

The Grand Tour was the traditional trip of Europe undertaken by mainly upper-class European young men of means. The custom flourished from about 1660 until the advent of large-scale rail transit in the 1840s, and was associated with a standard itinerary.

It served as an educational rite of passage. Though primarily associated with the British nobility and wealthy landed gentry, similar trips were made by wealthy young men of Protestant Northern European nations on the Continent, and from the second half of the 18th century some South American, U.S., and other overseas youth joined in. The tradition was extended to include more of the middle class after rail and steamship travel made the journey less of a burden.

The primary value of the Grand Tour, it was believed, lay in the exposure both to the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance, and to the aristocratic and fashionably polite society of the European continent. In addition, it provided the only opportunity to view specific works of art, and possibly the only chance to hear certain music. A grand tour could last from several months to several years. It was commonly undertaken in the company of a knowledgeable guide or tutor. 

The Grand Tour not only provided a liberal education but allowed those who could afford it the opportunity to buy things otherwise unavailable at home, and it thus increased participants' prestige and standing. Grand Tourists would return with crates of art, books, pictures, sculpture, and items of culture, which would be displayed in libraries, cabinets, gardens, and drawing rooms, as well as the galleries built purposely for their display; The Grand Tour became a symbol of wealth and freedom.


Bronze Figure of Mercury

  • Height: 23.0cm
    Width: 20.0cm
    Depth: 13.0cm