Another Ambivalent Aura

Hermaphoditus was the intersex deity of the ancient world.  In one version of the myth, she/he was intersex at birth. Ovid, however, has the nymph Salamacis fall in love with the male Hermaphoditus and wish that they might become one.  The gods granted her wish and created an intersex body.  He/she was sometimes worshipped as a marriage deity, a sort of physical embodiment of the institution of heterosexual marriage.

It is perhaps not surprising that there is not a statue of this obscure deity at Anglesey Abbey.  Her/his absence from the cast collection in the Museum of Classical Archaeology is disappointing, though.  This is due to Victorian prudery.  The Fitzwilliam Syndicate was offered a cast of a hermaphrodite as part of a much bigger donation in 1850.  They refused to accept it, claiming it was not acceptable for public display.  No one knows what the cast looked like nor where it is today.

The Louvre’s Sleeping Hermaphroditus is an ancient marble figure resting on a bed sculpted by Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1620.  Classical Archaeology created a clay replica of the figure, now cracked as it has dried out.

Sleeping Hermaphroditus, The Louvre, Paris
Clay replica of Louvre Hermaphroditus, Classical Archaeology
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