Finger ring engraved with an image of Hermes, late 4th century b.c.
Greek, South Italian, Tarentine
Gold; H. 7/8 in. (2.2 cm)
Purchase, The Bothmer Purchase Fund and Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1994 (1994.230.3)
The broad oval bezel of this heavy gold ring is engraved with an intaglio showing the youthful messenger-god Hermes balancing on his left leg as he fastens a wing to his raised right foot. The god wears a short mantle that encircles his neck and hangs down his back. Winged sandals or boots are a standard attribute of Hermes, but it is unusual to find the wings attached to the figure's ankles rather than to some form of footwear.
Since its first publication more than a century ago, this ring has been associated with a notable type in monumental Greek sculpture, the Sandal-Binder Hermes, traditionally ascribed to the sculptor Lysippos. Echoes of this particular composition, showing the god tying or untying his winged sandal, appear in decorative arts as well, notably on coins of Sybrita, in Crete, dated to the late fourth century B.C. This ring, however, can be stylistically grouped with a handful of accomplished late Classical gold rings from Magna Graecia, which is its alleged findspot (Tarentum, in southern Italy).