Catalog of the Fine Arts Collection
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Depictions of young men are common among ancient Roman sculptures because of the culture's twin ideals of masculinity and youth. The model for this copy is in the collection of the Vatican Museums in Rome and has been known by several names over the centuries since it was first recorded in 1543, including Hercules, Hermes (Mercury), Milo, and Theseus. The close resemblance of the Belvedere Antinous to a more complete sculpture bearing the winged shoes and staff symbolic of the gods' messenger Hermes has convinced some scholars of that attribution, rather than the more generic attractive, youthful type that is commonly ascribed to depictions of Antinous, the Roman Emperor Hadrian's companion. Johann Joachim Winckelmann, arguably the most important eighteenth-century scholar of classical art, greatly admired the Antinous' sweetness and innocence of expression, an opinion that prevailed for most of the nineteenth century.