Sleeping Hermaphrodite


19th century (early)

Plaster and cardboard

Inventory sheet

This plaster medal is one of approximately 700 acquired on the Grand Tour. This was a tradition in vogue, especially from the 17th to 19th century, of wealthy young Europeans undertaking an initiatory journey, whose ultimate destination was Italy, in order to increase their knowledge of classical culture and art.

Gems (precious stones) and ancient intaglios, as well as copies and reproductions of them in glass paste, plaster, wax and other materials were one of the most sought-after souvenirs of these journeys, as they provided a glimpse of the Ancient World through a very small object. In the 18th century, these objects circulated with such popularity between collectors and the curious that they started being called Grand Tour cameos.

The themes represented extended to the reproduction of the most prestigious classical sculptures in Rome. The Hermaphrodite is one such sculpture, discovered in the early 17th century and acquired by Cardinal Borghese who, in 1620, commissioned the sculptor Lorenzo Bernini to create the pillow on which the figure now sleeps.