Bronze head of Hypnos


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

Hypnos first appears in mythology in the works of one of the earliest Greek poets, Hesiod (lived around 700 BC), where Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death) were the terrible sons of Nyx (Night). Hypnos was, however, generally viewed as benevolent to mankind. The god was frequently mentioned in literary sources, and associated with poppies and sleep-inducing herbs. Hypnos' wings allowed him to move swiftly over land and sea, and to fan the foreheads of the weary until they fell asleep. His son was Morpheus, the personification of dreams.

Although he was frequently shown in vase painting, sculptural representations of Hypnos were rare. This bronze head belongs with a series of similar heads and figures found mostly in the western Mediterranean, particularly in France, Italy and Spain. The statue type represented Hypnos either as an adolescent or, in some variants, as an even younger child. He was shown running forwards, holding poppies in his right hand and a drinking-horn in his left, from which presumably he poured a sleeping potion. This head shows how wings sprouted from his temples, and his hair was elaborately arranged into a series of luxurious locks, some falling freely, others tied in a knot at the back of the head.

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  • Title: Bronze head of Hypnos
  • Date Created: -350/-200
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 20.32cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Subject: classical deity
  • Registration number: 1868,0606.9
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Civitella d'Arno
  • Period/culture: Roman; Classical Greek; Hellenistic
  • Material: bronze
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Castellani, Alessandro