Apollo Belvedere


Title: Apollo Belvedere
Location: The Vatican Museums
Medium: Marble
Dimensions: 224cm (height)

Apollo the god of the sun, music, poetry, medicine, etc. exists in both Roman and Greek mythology. This god, whom encompasses many different intellectual things, is depicted as the peak of masculine beauty. No better example exists than the famous sculpture known as the “Apollo Belvedere.” Little is known about the origins of the famous sculpture, as even the artist who created it is unknown. It is commonly believed, however, that this marble sculpture of Apollo is a replica of an original bronze sculpture by the Greek artist Leochares. The only other bit of information known about the creation of the “Apollo Belvedere” is that the sculpture was probably a Roman, and not a Greek, copy of the original. The rest of the history about the sculpture dates from its rediscovery in the 16th century on.

Since its rediscovery the “Apollo Belvedere” has undergone some interesting events. Under the papacy of Pope Julius II the sculpture was brought into the collections of the Vatican. It was during this time that the sculpture underwent restoration to replace its two broken arms. The Vatican originally tried to commission Michelangelo to restore the classical work. Michelangelo, however, refused to do the restoration and instead suggested one of his students to do the work. It was due to this suggestion that Montorsoli completed the restoration sometime after 1532. Then around the year 1796 Napoleon had the sculpture taken from the Vatican and sent back to the Louvre. This was said to be the most admired and coveted work of art taken by Napoleon. Then, after the exile of Napoleon, the “Apollo Belvedere” was returned to the Vatican in 1815 where it still remains. The condition that it was returned in, however, is not the same as it stands today in the Vatican Museum. After the “Apollo Belvedere” was returned to the Vatican the restorations previously done to the statue were deemed incorrect. Thus Montorsoli’s restored arms were removed from the statue, which is how it still stands today. The “Apollo Belvedere’s” fame does not come from its history, but from its beauty.

The “Apollo Belvedere” embodies the ideals of classical art. To begin with the sculpture has been carved so that the subject takes on a contrapposto form. Apollo’s left leg is slightly bent as his body’s weight is placed upon his right leg to create this contrapposto. Upon further examination of the “Apollo Belvedere” it becomes clear that this is an idealistic work of art as the sculpture does not resemble any human figure. Instead the sculpture embodies the peak of masculine beauty and takes on the identity of the god Apollo. The sculpture’s features are very smooth with no individual imperfections being purposefully made to the marble. Apollo’s face embodies the stoicism of the Greeks as no emotions are being portrayed. This would seem almost counter-intuitive, as Apollo has just released an arrow from his bow, if the culture that produced this sculpture was not taken into account. This is exactly the point that evokes a response from me.

When viewing the “Apollo Belvedere” the first thing brought to my attention is the calm expression on Apollo’s face. This is not like Michelangelo’s “David,” whose intense expression brings tension in the air, but is a much calmer sculpture to look at. Apollo gives the sense that the death blow he just delivered was of no challenge to him. There is no intensity or joy in Apollo’s face, but only a sort of melancholy as if the battle meant nothing to him. This is further asserted by the way Apollo is shown holding his bow. It seems as if Apollo merely pulled the bow string back with two finger, as if it was an easy undertaking. To reinforce the point even more Apollo does not even seem to be aiming the bow. Well whatever target Apollo was aiming at the “Apollo Belvedere” will forever hit the target of being one of the most beautiful classical sculptures.






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