ArtOdysseys: A Study of the Apollo Belvedere at the Vatican Museum in Rome
|The Apollo Belvedere stands after 2,000 years in the Octagonal Court at the Vatican Museum in Rome. All content is the copyrighted property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.|
Welcome to ArtOdysseys! Each month, I share my discoveries in art while traveling around the world in hopes of igniting your curiosity so that you too, can connect with art and cultures along your journeys. Each month, I focus on one study and this month it’s “sculpture.” Throughout my travels, I have encountered numerous masterpieces, many of which I have fallen in love since my days of art history in college. While I’ve written about some of them on EuroTravelogue including Michelangelo’s “David,” the “Laocoön,” Bernini—among others—I turn back to Rome, Italy, once again for a new study of the Apollo Belvedere statue housed in the Vatican Museum. For me, I have grown to love to this statue because as soon as I saw it, I was reminded instantly of the “David.” Let’s take a closer look at the Apollo Belvedere.
|Michelangelo's David at the Accademia Gallery in Florence. This photo only: Wikipedia via David Gaya.|
Ever since my first visit to Rome and the Vatican, I can never seem to spend enough time studying the thousands of sculptures throughout the museum. While impossible to see all the pieces in one day, it is possible to select a few rooms for in -depth immersion of the art within and one of my favorites stands above the rest. Located in the Octagonal Court—home Classical Antiquities—where some of the most fascinating pieces dating back 2,000 years can be seen today, the Apollo Belveder was created during a time when humanity was celebrated by the artists of the day.
As you probably know, Apollo is the god of light and music not to mention a skilled archer as well. Often identified with the sun in many a classical myth, Apollo was son to Zeus and Leto—daughter to one of the mighty Titans of ancient Greek mythology.
|The Apollo Belvedere seen here dates back to the Imperial age or A.D. 130-140. All content is the copyrighted property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.|
Named by Pope Julius II for the building in which he stands, this marble Apollo Belvedere, dating back to A.D. 130-140, is actually a copy of an original Greek bronze that dates from 330-320 B.C. or the Late Classical era. Undiscovered until the 15th century, Apollo appears in magnificent form and striking physique despite the fact that his left hand and lower part of his right arm were missing. Thankfully, both have been restored by Michelangelo’s pupil Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli.
Shown just moments after releasing his fatal arrow from the bow clasped tightly in his left hand, Apollo stands “contrapposto” or a position in which one leg remains rigid while the other relaxed. Around the top of the archer’s curly locks is the strophium or a band typically warn by the nobles and gods. And softly draped over his shoulders and arms, his flowing cloak contrasts with his radiant and youthful physique—suggesting the nobility of an Olympian god. Slung over Apollo’s right shoulder is his quiver held in place by a leather strap. When viewed properly, you can’t help but notice his exquisite proportions from torso to toe while he stands in this striking pose.
Compare and Contrast
Although not as finely chiseled as the “David,” both appear as muscular youths standing in identical contrapposto positions. However if you look closely as their faces, you will see that Apollo’s face is somewhat softer and relaxed because he is shown in a state of relief after releasing his deathly arrow. David’s face, on the other hand, embodies the mounting tension and anticipation coursing through his veins before his fatal attack on Goliath. When viewed side by side in the close-up image above, it’s hard to believe that 1,500 years separate the “David” from the Apollo Belvedere.
Two quotes below articulate beautifully the magnificence of the Apollo Belvedere:
- Romanticist Hölderlin remarked, “…the eyes observe with silent, eternal light.”
- Art historian and archeologist Johann Joachim Winckelmann wrote, “Of all the works of antiquity that have escaped destruction, the statue of Apollo represents the highest ideal of art.”
More Discoveries in Sculpture:
- Sculpture at Clos Pegase from This Is My Happiness
- Rodin in San Francisco from No Onions Extra Pickles
- Roy Lichtenstein's Sculptures from A Sense of Place
- Forgetting the Sculpture of Patrick Dougherty from Travellious