As part of the Warburg Renaissance, we are reviewing some of our most treasured items to identify which are in most urgent need of restoration and repair (or in this case, reproduction). One such item is the Wilton-Warburg Kriophoros, an emblematic Warburg statue with a story as surprising as that of the Institute itself.
A first-century Hermes Kriophoros, likely a Roman or Hellenic copy of the archaic Greek ‘ram-bearer,’ stood in the entrance hall of the Warburg Institute from 1958 to 2007. Hermes, known as Mercury in Roman mythology, served as the messenger of Zeus. His likeness, carrying a ram, formed a sculpture type that spanned the centuries: Greek Kriophoroi were copied by the Romans and eventually found their way into Christian imagery as the biblical ‘Good Shepherd’ motif.
The Wilton-Warburg Kriophoros belongs to the extensive collection of classical sculpture at Wilton House, located outside Salisbury. Former Warburg Institute Director Gertrud Bing visited Wilton House in 1955 to document its collection and noticed the statue immediately. Following a lengthy correspondence with Bing, Lord Herbert of Wilton House generously loaned the statue to the Warburg in 1958 as a classical sculpture that ‘tuned so well with the scope of the [Institute].’ After its half-century tenure as sentinel welcoming visitors and scholars alike to the Warburg’s building on Woburn Square, the Wilton-Warburg Kriophoros returned to Wilton House’s newly-renovated sculpture gallery in 2007.
Factum Foundation’s project to return a facsimile of the Hermes Kriophoros statue in Wilton House to the Warburg Institute, where it stood from 1957 to 2007, is a tribute to an institution that has provided much inspiration over the past two decades of its existence.
Like the Warburg, Factum is concerned with what might be described as the cartography of the visual world – by revealing the hidden landscapes of images through 3D scanning and other techniques, Factum’s aim is to transform the understanding of their history and significance; not as an iconographic atlas, but as a topographic one. Furthermore, the Warburg Library – a collection that migrated from Hamburg to London – is living proof of Factum’s core principle that the act of copying is essential for the preservation of knowledge and culture. From papyrus scroll to Christian codex, through Byzantine minuscule and Arabic calligraphy, on card-mounted black and white photographs or in a series of noughts and ones, human beings have always used the technologies available to them to record and remember. The Hermes Kriophoros, which is perhaps a later Roman imitation of an archaic Greek model, has migrated from Italy to France, from France to Britain, and from the physical to the digital and back again. It is hoped that the facsimile of it will be an appropriate symbol of the Warburg’s past – and its future too.
Ferdinand Saumarez Smith, Director of Factum Foundation London
The Statue: A Wilton-Warburg 'Kriophoros'
Find out more about the statue in this blog post by Ferdinand Saumarez Smith
You can support the production of the Wilton-Warburg Kriophoros statue and help the Institute’s age-old sentinel return to its new-and-improved halls by clicking on the Donate link and noting in the comments that your donation is for the statue.
We are delighted to publicly recognise all those who generously support the statue in the Warburg Institute 2023-24 Annual Review, which donors receive a copy of, as well as in our Warburg Renaissance Project end of campaign publication. If you would rather stay anonymous, you can let us know on our donation form.
Every donation, big or small, brings us closer to our goal of £7000. Any and all contributions are welcome, donations so far have largely consisted of £1,000-£2,000 sums. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. Your support is vital in preserving and celebrating our rich heritage.
Thank you in advance to all those who feel able to make a gift in support of the Wilton-Warburg Kriophoros.