The place of honor in any treatment of Praxiteles must be given to the Hermes with the infant Dionysus on his arm. This statue was found on May 8, 1877, in the Temple of Hera at Olympia, lying in front of its pedestal. Here it had stood when Pausanias saw it and recorded that it was the work of Praxiteles. The legs of Hermes below the knees have been restored in plaster (only the right foot being antique), and so have the arms of Dionysus. Except for the loss of the right arm and the lower legs, the figure of Hermes is in admirable preservation, the surface being uninjured.
Hermes is taking the new-born Dionysus to the Nymphs to be reared by them. Pausing on his way, he has thrown his mantle over a convenient tree-trunk and leans upon it with the arm that holds the child. In his closed left hand he doubtless carried his herald's wand; the lost right hand must have held up some object – bunch of grapes or what-not – for the entertainment of the little god. The latter is not truthfully proportioned; in common with almost all sculptors before the time of Alexander, Praxiteles seems to have paid very little attention to the characteristic forms of infancy. But the Hermes is of unapproachable perfection. His symmetrical figure, which looks slender in comparison with the Doryphorus of Polyclitus, is athletic without exaggeration, and is modeled with faultless skill.
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