Classical World, northern Italy, Etruria, ca. 2nd century BCE. Two near-identical, mold-made ceramic antefixes, each with a depiction of the head of the god Turms, the Etruscan form of Mercury (Hermes) set against a flaring background and above two coiled flourishes. The god is depicted wearing his distinctive petasos, the winged hat, with two pinecones on either side of his head - a common ancient symbol whose meaning is lost to time. Behind this edifice is the long, utilitarian, hollow half-cylinder form of the antefix. When first made, these would have been brightly painted, and have ornamented a public building or fine domestic structure. Size of each: 7.25" L x 6" W x 9.7" H (18.4 cm x 15.2 cm x 24.6 cm)
This god was one of the major Classical deities, the patron god of financial success and commerce, as well as eloquence and poetry. He was a trickster god, and he also acted as a psychopomp, leading souls to the underworld. For this reason, he also came to be seen as the "keeper of boundaries," forming a bridge between the upper and lower worlds. He also fulfilled that role by acting as a messenger for the other gods. Etruscan artwork often emphasizes this last attribute of the god, and he appears on many sarcophagi from the period alongside Charon and Cerberus. He was also a popular decorative subject on Etruscan personal items like mirrors. Imagine the symbolism an Etruscan person would have understood upon seeing these antefixes on the face of a building!
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection
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