Statuette of Apollo

  • 1st century B.C. -1st century A.D.
  • Bronze
  • H-31 D-8 W-14
Catalogue Entry

This monumentally conceived statuette represents the Greek god of light, Apollo, whose domain encompassed music, archery, prophecy, and medicine, and who was also associated with many of Greek civilization's greatest cultural accomplishments, including law, ethics, and philosophy.1

On a rectangular base with moldings above and below, Apollo stands upright, in a pose devised by the fifth-century Greek sculptor Polykleitos, in which his left knee is slightly bent and the corresponding foot is advanced in front of the other. He wears a himation (mantle) in an unusual fashion, in which the cloak is wrapped around his right hip and drawn up over his left shoulder, leaving part of his supple chest and his entire left side totally exposed. Made of a heavy fabric, the himation also serves to animate the composition, its folds falling in a graceful cascade of patterns that zigzag, loop, and crisscross one another. Both arms, bent at the elbows, extend before him, the right hand open, its palm outward, the left clenched as if it once held something, perhaps a kithara (stringed musical instrument).

Considerable care was taken in the rendering the god's head, which features Apollo's characteristically youthful, unbearded face and long tresses that fall over his shoulders. The lock before each ear has been twisted into a thick roll that arches over his ear. Although visible only at the back, a braid or plaited lock encircles his head like a diadem, disappearing under the double row of curls across his forehead.

The artist who fashioned this statuette was influenced by the Archaic style of Greek sculpture of nearly five hundred years earlier. Strikingly similar Archaistic statuettes of Apollo have been associated with northern Greece,2 and it seems likely that they, like this statuette, reflect a monumental statue of the god that is now lost.

The bronze base is ancient, but since it shows footprints larger than those of the statuette of Apollo, it may not have been the original base, although it is likely that the two pieces were joined in antiquity.

1. LIMC 2 (1984), pp. 183-464, s.v. Apollon (by W. Lambrinudakis et al.).
2. See Strong 1928, p. 3, no. 1, pls. 1-4. The closest parallel for this statuette was found in the village of Marash in eastern Thrace in 1921, and is now in the collection of the Basel Museum. I am grateful to Laura Jean Siegel, Ph.D. for this reference.

Catalogue Entry(Bav#036)

1st century B.C.‐1st century A.D.
H. 31.0 cm, W. 14.0 cm, Depth 8.0 cm
From the end of the 3rd century BC through 2nd century AD, Rome gradually extended its range of power and overwhelmed Greece. The Romans are known to have paraded their war prizes captured from Greece and celebrated their victories, and the bronze and marble images of Greek gods which were part of this plunder served as the vehicle for the transmission of the superior Greek art tradition to Italy. This image of Apollo is shown wearing a himation, with right arm raised, bent at the elbow and pointing forward. The left arm is also bent at the elbow and originally the left hand grasped something. The pose seen in this Apollo, shown as a young man with weight on one hip and other foot slightly raised, was part of the "severe style" of the early Greek classical period, while the closely curled hair style resembles Greek sculpture of the early 5th century BC. This image is thought to be a Roman copy of classical Greek sculpture, and while the items held in the two hands are now missing, comparisons with contemporary bronze images show that it was probably a phiale in his right hand and a bow in his left hand. This god is known as the "most Greek of all the gods," and was the god of light, the sun, medicine, music, poetry and prophecy. He is normally shown in the guise of a young man. The Romans adopted Apollo early on as a god of healing, and he was one of the main patron gods of Rome during the Augustan period.