Greek artists, mainland and western, employed limestone for their sculptures beginning in the Archaic Period. In the west, where local limestone was abundant and marble was scarce, the material continued to be exploited for temples during the Classical Period, including for sculptural programs, the metopes from the Temple of Hera in Selinus providing perhaps the best example. During the late fourth and early third centuries B.C., Taras in Apulia was a major stone working center, where funerary buildings were adorned with exquisite sculptures, conceived as miniature temple facades, utilizing the local limestone. Like all Greek sculpture, these limestone sculptures would once have been brightly painted.
This impressive and superbly sculpted head of the god Hermes is a Greek original likely hailing from one of these sculptural centers in Magna Graecia or Sicily. The fact that a deity is represented, and that it is over-lifesized and sculpted in the round, suggests that it may have once served as a cult statue or in a temple pediment.
See Langlotz, Ancient Greek Sculpture of South Italy and Sicily, Carter, The Sculpture of Taras, and Holloway, Influences and Styles in the Late Archaic and Early Classical Greek Sculpture of Sicily and Magna Graecia.