Appliqués such as this example, would have likely served as the emblema (centrepiece) of a bowl or a piece of furniture. It was a custom for the Ancient Romans, especially among the wealthier classes, to have highly decorated everyday life objects, such as jewellery boxes or toiletries tables. The subject of such decorations could vary between portraits of women, to depictions of gods, or natural elements and animals.
Mercury, Mercurius in Latin, is a major component of the Ancient Roman pantheon. Commonly identified with the Ancient Greek god Hermes, his cult has a long tradition, with the earliest evidences of his name found on Linear B tables dating to the 15th – 13th century BC. As messenger and herald, Mercury/Hermes features in several mythological episodes, such as the killing of Argos. His representations in Roman art derive from the Greek tradition, maintaining Hermes’ attributes such as the winged sandals (talaria) and hat (petasos).