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Apollo Belvedere

Modern plaster replica of a Roman marble copy of a Greek bronze original of ca. 330 BCE, usually associated with the sculptor Leochares. Most scholars, however, now believe he is a Roman re-creation or adaptation in Greek style and date him to 130-140 CE, around the time of the emperor Hadrian (ruled 117-138).

The original is in the Vatican Museum, Museo Pio Clementino, Cortile Ottagono no. 1015. Marble. H. 2.24 m. (7 ft. 4 in.). According to the small metal oval in the base, the cast was purchased from the Caproni Bros. cast company of Boston, probably in 1885.

This statue of Apollo, Greek god of music, poetry and archery, was one of the first Classical works put on display in the Vatican in the 16th century, where it formed part of the collection of Pope Julius II. It takes its name from the Belvedere Court, the Court of the "Beautiful View," designed by the Renaissance architect Bramante, where it may still be seen.

The statue shows Apollo as a handsome youth, who held a bow in his outstretched hand. His pose is dynamic: he strides forward on his right leg with the left trailing slightly. (A tree trunk carved with a snake behind the right buttock helps support the figure, especially at ankle-level, the weakest point of any marble statue). The right arm, extended along his side, lacks the forearm and hand (holding a laurel branch originally?). The left arm (its hand also missing) was extended nearly horizontal away from the body, perhaps to grasp a bow, now also missing. Regardless of the attribute, the extension of the arm into space is a tour de force of the stone carver's craft, not least because it also supports the weight of a cloak around the neck and along the left arm; its curving folds are unsupported between shoulder and wrist. Viewed from the front, the turn of Apollo's head to his left side shows off his strikingly 'classical' profile to best advantage. The other traits of the figure are equally distinctive: the long hair is gathered at the back of the head and drawn up into a knot with trailing ends tied above the forehead. Looped over the right shoulder and under the left arm is a belt or baldric that supports the quiver of arrows behind Apollo's right shoulder. The figure wears sandals (notice too the ring around the left ankle). This type footwear, known to scholars as the pseudo-krepides, is a distinctively Roman shoe (Morrow 1985: 114), one of the reasons our figure is unlikely to copy a Greek statue.

The prominent fig-leaf is not original, but was added in the Renaissance; it was removed from the original when the piece was being cleaned for its trip to the United States in 1983 for the Vatican Show.

Select Bibliography: Apollo Belvedere
  • Amelung, W. 1903. Die Sculpturen des vaticanischen Museums, II (Berlin) 256-69, no. 92, pl. 12.
  • Bieber, M. 1961. The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age, rev. ed. (New York) 63, figs. 199-200.
  • Daltrop, G. 1975-76. "Zur Überlieferung und Restaurierung des Apollo vom Beledere," Rendiconti della Pontificia Accademia Romana di Archeologia 48: 127-40.
  • Daltrop, G., 1978. "Zum Attribut in der rechten Hand des Apollo vom Belvedere," in Greece and Italy in the Classical World (Acta of the XI International Congress of Classical Archaeology, London) 224-25.
  • Deubner, O.R. 1979. "Der Gott mit dem Bogen: das Problem des Apollo im Belvedere," Jahrbuch des Deutsches Archäologisches Institut 94: 223-44.
  • Galli, G., "Relazione. I Musei e le Gallerie Pontificie nell'anno 1924-1925," Rendiconti della Pontificia Accademia romana di Archeologia 3 (1924-25) 473-74, ills. 3-4.
  • Helbig, W. 1963. Führer durch die öffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertümer in Rom: Die Päpstlichen Sammlungen im Vatikan und Lateran, I. 4th ed. (Tübingen) no. 226.
  • Hornblower, S., and Spawforth, A. (eds.) 1996. The Oxford Classical Dictionary (Oxford) 122-23. [abbreviated OCD]
  • LIMC II.1.183-464 (Apollo). [LIMC = Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, a comprehensive myth and art encyclopedia: a copy is available in the reference section of Spencer Art & Architecture Library at KU]
  • Morrow, K.D. 1985.  Greek Footwear and the Dating of Sculpture (Madison) 106 pl. 96, 114.
  • The Vatican Collections. The Papacy and Art (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1982) 63-64, 62 col. fig.


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