'Sleeping Venus/Hermaphrodite'

59.148.25

About this object

Statue, originally showing a reclining hermaphrodite. The male characteristics and the infants around his breasts were removed from the figure. Two years after its purchase Blundell mentioned them in his Account, but by the time the Engravings catalogue was published the genitals and the infants had been removed. A drawing in the Townley Collection ( in the British Museum ) shows the figure as a true hermaphrodite before restoration. There were two infants wrestling below her right arm and one suckling from her left breast. Children can be rare in sculptural examples of hermaphrodites but infants can accompany standing hermaphrodites as statues. The removal of the infants required some recarving especially under the right armpit where new drapery is introduced, the flat surface and squared folds and an awkard left nipple and waistline. Some of the other restorations may also be before Blundell's purchase: the drawing in Townley's collection indicates joins by jagged lines on the arms and left leg.
The reclining current figure appears to be asleep on a rock covered by its drapery and their folds. The rocky support suggests that the scene is set outdoors and may reflect the Hellenistic derived taste among Roman artists to depict landscapes and states of mind rather than simply gods and goddesses. Iconographically the statue has its origin in the Hellenistic time but is the work of a Roman era. During the Roman time hermaphrodite lost their frightening qualities and had a much more entertaining character. Despite the removal of its original qualities the figure and pose are greatly erotic. Earlier scholars such as Michaels saw this as not a particularly interesting statue but Bartman believes that it is not only iconographically rare but also of excellent quality. If compared with the Borghese Sleeping Hermaphrodite who is reclining on a matress and created by Bernini and its various replicas, the Ince one is designed to be viewed from the front only. It is possible that Blundell had seen this work during his Grand Tour in Italy. The Ince Hermaphrodite is much more straightforward composition and composed for a single view from the front. Bartman notes that her pose is more similar to sleepers and nymphs such as the Vatican's Ariadne than the Louvre Hermaphrodite.Like the Ariadne she reclines in on a drapery covered rock with most of the body exposed, the nudity and fleshness accentuated by the partial covering. The breasts are rounded, the belly protruding, the thighs large. Blundell characterises her as fleshy. The right arm is not raised over the head as it is common with sleeping figures but hangs off the rocky support while she cusions her head with her right shoulder in an almost disjointed motion suggesting clumsiness as the release in her sleep. Her head is tilted at the back in a pose of relaxation, the eyes closed and the mouth open. The long locks of her hair partned in the centre, hung loosely on her shoulder and the hair is generally casually treated compared to the meticulous treatment of most hermaphrodite images.
The ancient plinth is inset into a modern marble slab

Object specifics

  • Type
    Art
  • Culture
    Roman
  • Artist/Maker
    Unknown or unrecorded
  • Place made
    Europe: Southern Europe: Italy: Rome
  • Date made
    2nd Century AD before
  • Materials
    Marble
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Acquisition
    Gift of Col. Joseph W Weld, 1959
  • Collector
    Henry Blundell
  • Place collected
    Europe: Northern Europe: UK: England: London: Wandsworth: Roehampton
  • Date collected
    1801-04-07
  • Measurements
    510 mm; 20 1/16 in
  • Note
    Blundell displayed this in the Pantheon. The removal of the original characteristics of the hermaphrodite of the statue do not appear under the naked eye but only under ultraviolet examination.
    Although it is difficult to date the sculpture because of its extensive reworking, Bartman suggests that the lack of extensive drillwork in the hair or the drapery may be evidence of a date before the mid 2nd century AD.
    Ancient sources mention hermaphrodite sculptures in gymnasia and temples while finds are more from villas or garden contexts. Many 18th century collectors collected statues of hermaphrodites: Albani, Lansdowne, Gustav III and Catherine the Great all had characteristic examples. Some of them may had initially been funeraty portraits of deceased individuals reclining on a kline or a sarcophagus lid.
  • Related people
    2nd Earl of Bessborough (Previous owner); 3rd Earl of Bessborough (Previous owner); Henry Blundell (Collector, previous owner); Joseph William Col Sir Weld (Previous owner)

Explore related

Publications

  • A Catalogue of the Ancient Marbles at Ince Blundell Hall

    Ashmole, Bernard

    Author: Ashmole, Bernard
    Publisher: Clarendon Press
    Date: 1929
    Description: An illustrated catalogue of the ancient sculptures collected by Henry Blundell and formerly at Ince Blundell Hall.

  • Ancient Marbles in Great Britain

    Michaelis, A

    Author: Michaelis, A
    Publisher: Cambridge University Press
    Date: 1882
    Description:

  • Henry Blundell's Sculpture Collection at Ince Hall

    Vaughan, Gerard

    Author: Vaughan, Gerard
    Publisher: Tate Gallery, Liverpool; National Museums & Galleries on Merseyside
    Date: 1989
    Description:

  • Historien om en privatsamling

    Southworth, E; Fejfer, J

    Author: Southworth, E; Fejfer, J
    Publisher:
    Date: 1988
    Description:

  • Lexicon iconographicum mythologiae classicae

    Author:
    Publisher: Artemis
    Date: 1981
    Description:

  • Owning the Past

    Guilding, Ruth

    Author: Guilding, Ruth
    Publisher: Yale University Press
    Date: 2014
    Description:

  • The 18th century perception of Roman public portraits

    Fejfer, J; Southworth, E

    Author: Fejfer, J; Southworth, E
    Publisher: Philipp von Zabern
    Date: 1997
    Description:

  • The Ince Blundell Collection

    Southworth, E

    Author: Southworth, E
    Publisher: Oxford University Press
    Date: 1991
    Description:

  • The Ince Blundell collection of classical sculpture Volume III-The ideal sculpture

    Bartman, Elizabeth

    Author: Bartman, Elizabeth
    Publisher: Liverpool University Press
    Date: 2017
    Description:

Events

  • Sale of Lord Bessborough's collection

    Start date: 1801-04-07
    End date: 1801-04-07
    Description: Sale of the Bessborough family's collection of classical sculpture housed in Parkstead House, Roehampton, in April 1804. Although the sale was conducted by Christie's, the sale took place at Roehampton.

Ownership

Previous owners

  • Joseph William Col Sir Weld

    Owned from: 1958
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1959
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • Henry Blundell

    Owned from: 1801-04-07
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1810
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • 3rd Earl of Bessborough

    Owned from: 1793
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1801-04-07
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • 2nd Earl of Bessborough

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1793
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
Object view = Humanities
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