'Sleeping Venus/Hermaphroditus'



Statue, originally showing a reclining Hermaphroditus. 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 (British Museum) shows the figure as a true intersex person before the restoration. There were two infants wrestling below her right arm and one suckling from her left breast. Children are rare in sculptural examples of intersex subjects but infants can accompany standing statues. The removal of the infants required some re-carving especially under the right armpit where new drapery is introduced, the flat surface and squared folds and an awkward 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 influence on Roman artists to depict landscapes and states of mind rather than simply gods and goddesses. Ichnographically 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 did not regard it as a particularly interesting statue. Bartman disagreed and found it a rare example and of excellent quality. If compared with the Borghese Sleeping Hermaphrodite who is reclining on a mattress 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 Hermaphroditus is a much more straightforward composition and composed for a single view from the front. Bartman noted 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 on a drapery covered rock with most of the body exposed, the nudity and fleshiness accentuated by the partial covering. The breasts are rounded, the belly protruding, the thighs large. Blundell characterised 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 cushions 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 parted in the centre, hung loosely on her shoulder. The hair is rather casual compared to the meticulous treatment of most hermaphrodite images. The ancient plinth is inset into a modern marble slab.