ca 1600, probably Italian carved agate cameo. A Herm is being offered a goose. The cameo is probably a 1600 copy of a classical gem.The gem is damaged / cracked accross , but in one piece and has not been restored../
Measurements:23 x 19 mm
In ancient Greece Herm statues had an apotropaic function and were placed at crossings, country borders and boundaries as protection, in front of temples, near to tombs, in the gymnasia, palaestrae, libraries, porticoes, and public places, at the corners of streets, on high roads as sign-posts, with distances inscribed upon them. Before his role as protector of merchants and travelers, Hermes was a phallic god, associated with fertility, luck, roads and borders. His name comes from the word herma referring to a square or rectangular pillar of stone, terracotta, or bronze; a bust of Hermes’ head, usually with a beard, sat on the top of the pillar, and male genitals adorned the base. The surmounting heads were not, however, confined to those of Hermes; those of other gods and heroes, and even of distinguished mortals, were of frequent occurrence. In this case a compound was formed: Hermathena (a herm of Athena), Hermares, Hermaphroditus, Hermanubis, Hermalcibiades, and so on. In Athens, the hermai were most numerous and most venerated, they were placed outside houses as apotropes for good luck.They would be rubbed or anointed with olive oil and adorned with garlands or wreaths.This superstition persists, for example the Porcellino bronze boar of Florence (and numerous others like it around the world), where the nose is shiny from being continually touched for good luck or fertility.