The Apollo Belvedere or Apollo of the Belvedere, also called the Pythian Apollo, is a celebrated marble sculpture from Classical Antiquity. It was rediscovered in the late 15th century, during the Renaissance. From the mid-18th Century, it was considered the greatest ancient sculpture by ardent neoclassicists and for centuries epitomized ideals of aesthetic perfection for Europeans and westernized parts of the world.
The sculpture depicts the Greek god Apollo
, who has just overtaken the serpent Python
, a monster recently ravaging the coast of Delphos
. The arrow has just left his bow and the effort impressed on his musculature still lingers. His hair, lightly curled, flows in ringlets down his neck and rises gracefully to the summit of his head, which is encircled with the strophium
, a band symbolic of gods and kings. His quiver is suspended across his left shoulder. His robe (chlamys
) is clasped at his right shoulder and is turned up only on his left arm and thrown back.
The lower part of the right arm and the left hand were missing when discovered and were restored by Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli (1506-63), a sculptor and pupil of Michaelangelo.
The marble is either a Hellenistic
or a Roman copy of a lost bronze original made between 350
and 325 BC
by the Greek sculptor Leochares
Before its installation in the Cortile del Belvedere
, the Apollo
, which seems to have been discovered in 1489, apparently received very little notice from artists and though it has always been known to have belonged to Giuliano Della Rovere before he became pope, as Julius II
, its placement has been confused until as recently as 1986: Cardinal Della Rovere, who held the titulus
of San Pietro in Vincoli
, stayed away from Rome for the decade during Alexander VI
's papacy, 1494-1503; in the interim, the Apollo
stood in his garden at SS. Apostoli, Deborah Brown has shown, and not at his titular church, as had been assumed.
Once it was installed in the Cortile, however, it immediately became renowned and a demand for copies of it arose. The Mantuan sculptor Pier Jacopo Alari Bonacolsi, called "L'Antico", 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.
In the 1530s it was engraved by Marcantonio Raimondi, whose printed image transmitted the famous pose throughout Europe.
sculptor Antonio Canova
adopted the fluency of the Apollo Belvedere
for his marble Perseus
(Vatican Museums) in 1801.
According to noted art historian
Lord Kenneth Clark
...For four hundred years after it was discovered the Apollo was the most admired piece of sculpture in the world. It was Napoleon's greatest boast to have looted it from the Vatican. Now it is completely forgotten except by the guides of coach parties, who have become the only surviving transmitters of traditional culture.
Works inspired or influenced by the Apollo Belvedere
- Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, 1981. Taste and the Antique (Yale University Press) Cat. no. 8. Critical history of the Apollo Belvedere.