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Apollo Belvedere

Museum Label:

Chiurazzi description:
Apollo Belvedere. Believed to be the work of the artist Leochares towards the end of the IV century B.C. This sublime representation of the divine Apollo has been discussed and praised by all critics. The god, haughty and indignant descends to revenge the outrages of the humans.

Original measurement: 220 cm.

Origin: Museo Vaticano

Subject info:
The Apollo Belvedere is a marble sculpture that was discovered in the late 15th century. Much of the left forearm and some of the right hand were missing, but Antico in his statuette completed the extremities, and after arrival in Rome in 1532 Montorsoli made additions to the marble itself, which were observed with hardly any comment and invariably reproduced in prints, casts and copies for over 3 centuries but have recently been removed.

Some thought that the marble sculpture had been removed from Greece by Nero, but later analysis showed the marble composition to be Italian. Others thought that it must have been a copy of a Greek bronze sculpture, since a tree stump is attached to the right leg, which was usually done in bronze sculptures for sturdiness.

For centuries the sculpture epitomized the ideals of Classical Antiquity for Europeans, from the Renaissance through the 19th century. Since the marble sculpture includes

In the 1530s it was engraved by Marcantonio Raimondi, whose printed image transmitted the famous pose throughout Europe. Before his engraving existed, the Mantuan sculptor Pier Jacopo Alari Bonacolsi, called "L'Antico", had made a careful wax model of it, which he cast in bronze, finely finished and partly gilded, to figure in the Gonzaga collection, and in further copies in a handful of others. Albrecht Dürer reversed the Apollo's pose for his Adam in a 1504 engraving of Adam and Eve, suggesting that he saw it in Rome. When L'Antico and Dürer saw it, the Apollo was probably still in the personal collection of Giuliano della Rovere, who, once he was pope as Julius II, transferred the prize in 1511 to the small sculpture court of the Belvedere, the palazzetto or summerhouse that was linked to the Vatican Palace by Bramante's large Cortile del Belvedere. It became the Apollo of the Cortile del Belvedere and the name has remained with it, though the sculpture has long been indoors, in the Museo Pio-Clementino at the Vatican Museums, Rome.

Some experts believe that the marble is probably a Hellenistic or Roman copy of a bronze original, maybe by the Greek sculptor Leochares, made between 350—325 BC. For centuries it was treasured as the most celebrated work of Greek sculpture. Presently more experts see it as Roman style. The neoclassical sculptor Antonio Canova adopted the fluent Apollo Belvedere for his marble Perseus (Metropolitan Museum).

Apollo is in many respects the paradigm of a Greek god. He represents order, harmony, and civilization in a way that most other Olympian deities cannot quite equal. One only has to compare him with Dionysos to understand how Apollo is depicted as a bright, rational counterpart to the chaotic and frenzied god of wine and women. Indeed, Apollo is most often associated with the cultivated arts of music and medicine, and his role as the leader of the Muses establishes him as a patron of intellectual pursuits.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that in art, images of Apollo represented the height of male attractiveness - indeed, for years, Archaic statues of youths were commonly referred to as "Apollo", later to be replaced the more accurate term "kouros" (young man). However, as with most Greek deities, Apollo has characteristics that are myriad and diverse, so we should proceed to an exploration of this important god.

Birth of Apollo
According to the Greek poet Hesiod (Theogony, 918-20), Apollo was the son of the Olympian Zeus and the Titan Leto, and the brother of the goddess Artemis. And the details of how Apollo and his sister were born make an intriguing story, so let us look at this legend more closely.
The myth of Apollo's birth includes another instance of the wrath of Hera. Again, the wife of the philandering Zeus discovered that her husband had impregnated yet another goddess, and this time it was the Titan Leto. In her anger, Hera would not allow Leto to bear her children (remember, she was pregnant with the twin gods Apollo and Artemis), and the land itself was afraid to provide a shelter for Leto because of the fear of Hera's notorious retribution. Finally, Leto found an island that was willing to allow her to give birth, and this island was named Delos (which means "brilliant", and, incidentally, inspired the epithet Delian) in honor of the divine site. Apollo was then cared for by Themis, who fed him nectar and ambrosia for a few days, after which time he was an adult capable of assuming the full responsibilities of a god. And this is the story of how Apollo was born in Greek mythology.

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