Mercury (Hermes in Greek Mythology), was one of the twelve gods of the Olympus. Mercury is a recurring actor in mythological themes, but mostly as a supporting character; as messenger of the gods or as a travel guide for mortals.
Mercury is generally depicted as a graceful athletic youth. His attributes are the Talaria – winged sandals – or in some cases wings to his ankles, the Petasus – winged hat – and the Caduceus – a winged staff with to intertwining snakes wrapped around it. The Talaria and Petasus enable Mercury to travel fast, the Caduceus induces sleep. The base of this statue is the head of Aeolus, the god of favorable winds.
In Roman mythology Mercury is also the god of trade, often depicted with a purse or money pouch. This depiction after Giambologna, however, does not have these attributes.
Jean de Boulogne (1529-1608), a sculptor from Douai in Flanders, left for Italy around 1555 where he changed his name to Giovanni Bologna. His name was eventually corrupted into Giambologna.
The famous bronze sculpture of Mercury was initially conceived around 1580 in which he strived to express the feeling of weightlessness. Only Mercury’s toe balances on the breath of Aeolus. The figure is so carefully balanced that it seems as if Mercury is moving through the air with grace and speed.
The original statue by Giambologna is in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence, Italy.