Fleet of foot I am not, yet one of my greatest pleasures is to walk. I kid myself I can walk for miles but, really, my limit seems to be but two, and then I have to sit - preferably with a waiter to hand. Inside a museum, where yards can feel like miles on the trek to the one thing in the place that whispers a word of welcome, sitting is frequently not an option.
It's not often that the portrayals of ancient gods and goddesses, all majesty, might and malice, make one feel kinship - largely they're ideals of human form and with all the distance that divinity brings. Not from them the dramatic gesturing, the mugging for the sculptor's chisel, as it were, that one gets from Bernini's angels and saints, the latter-day scions of the ancient pantheon, rather an unheeding solemnity rarely relinquished.
Hermes, elder brother of Dionysus, messenger of the gods, guide of souls across the Styx, protector of thieves, inventor of the lyre, and as divine a bad-boy as any of his cousins scattered around the Archaeological Museum, sits contemplatively on a rock, the living image of a neighborhood kid with a bloodied lip who, having just dropped into the peristyle for a chat, wonders if, despite all, he has been handed a bum rap.
"Well," I said to the Celt, "it just goes to show how much we are led by the nose not just by books and magazines but also by our own aspirations." I had just remarked, seemingly only to myself, that I'd like a copy of Hermes on the stone cabinet (a piece of 1980s whimsy in the form of a plinth ashlared in faux limestone) in our living room. The Celt, used as he is, he says, to my verbally completing conversations that hitherto have occurred solely in my head, murmured something noncommittal. But, to agree with myself at least, Hermes would look fabulous perched there in the living room - a conversation piece, if ever there were one.
The question, of course, is why I want such a conversation piece, which surely it would be, in our living room. Be they tablescapes, acres of white phalaenopsis, asymmetrical arrangements of artwork or plaster casts of Classical torsos, I'm pretty resistant to alluring pageants of objets on offer in designer monographs, magazines and eBay. Yet twice now, I've had the same strong response - I want - to two objects; the first a bronze monk who now resides in our bedroom, and now this statue of Hermes. In each case, it is not the connection with religion, but the clear humanity of them both, that speaks to me.
iPhone camera notwithstanding, and as much as I might have wished, I couldn't kneel at his feet.