Hebe was the Greek goddess of youth. She was the daughter of Zeus and Hera. Hebe served as cupbearer for the gods of Mount Olympus, until she was married to Hercules. Hebe was supposed to have the power to give eternal youth, and in art is typically seen with her father in the guise of an eagle, often offering a cup. She was supposed to have the power to give eternal youth. As a subject in art, Hebe was given little attention in art in ancient times. But she became a remarkably popular subject in art in the period from about 1750 to 1900. The interest in her I believe symbolized a need to revive the vitality in culture which was fading with the growth of industrialization. Bertel Thorvaldsen’s sculpture and Carolus Duran’s painting are among the best examples.
I recently read Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for the first time. The book has much more depth than the campy Hollywood adoptions; the ape-like Mr Hyde seen in the films is really not accurate to the novel. It is usually overlooked that Mr Hyde is a ‘damnable young man’; the dark side of the civil middle-aged Dr Jekyll is manifested in a smaller youthful Hyde. At the end of the edition I read, there was a commentary which recognized the criminological Darwinism reflected in Stevenson’s story. In the late 19th century, scientism influenced eminent authorities to believe children were born criminals. To quote the commentary, “This meant the human child was considered to be closer to less evolved life forms ‘primitives’ and animals, but also criminals and lunatics. This logic was interchangeable; if the criminal or lunatic was a product of arrested mental development, so he or she was also ‘arrested’ at an early stage of individual (as much as species) growth.” I find this view to be bizarre since traditionally, childhood is regarded as a state of innocence. Although criminological Darwinism is not refered to today, it seems to exist as a subliminal subtext of contemporary culture. You may ask what Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has to do with Hebe? I am certain if Dr Jekyll drank from the cup of Hebe he would have not turned into Mr Hyde.
The rationalism of the modern period brought a disenchantment from the spiritual aspects of life. Romantic art was a reaction against the one-sided rationalization which marginalized the subjective side of humanity which perceives love and beauty. Very often artists depicted youth to symbolize wholeness of mind and body as well as heart. If only Hyde could have met Hebe for her to correct Dr Jekyll for his denial of the existence of the heart.