An imposing work of extraordinary artistry, this marble bust captures the visage of Apollo, the handsome god who is one of the most legendary Olympian deities from antiquity. The son of Zeus and Leto, and twin brother of the huntress Artemis, he was known as the Archer and legendary god of light, whose important task it was to harness his chariot and move the Sun across the sky. This larger-than-life sculpture, crafted in white marble, captures all of the commanding grandeur of the great god of ancient times, bringing the noble figure vividly to life.
The bust was influenced by one of the great masterpieces of Greek sculpture, the Belvedere Apollo. The original, dating to 325 BC, is attributed to Leochares, the legendary Greek sculptor renowned for his work on the Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. While Leochares' Apollo has never been recovered, a Roman copy was discovered near Rome in the late 15th century, and today can be found in the collection of the Vatican Museums. Counted among the most precious works of ancient sculpture still in existence, this important sculpture was remarkably influential on the artists of the Renaissance. A handful of replicas - from sculptures to busts and sketches - are prominently displayed in the most prestigious museums of the world, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the British Museum in London and the Getty in California.
The sculpture held remarkable influence over a generation of artists during the Renaissance, who sought to replicate the highly idealized perfection of the god. Echoes of Leochares' Apollo can be seen in Michelangelo's David, while other Renaissance greats, including Dürer, Bandinelli, and Goltzius, produced sketches and engravings of the work. Centuries later, the great Neoclassical sculptor Antonio Canova would fall under its influence when he adapted the work in his marble Perseus in 1801.
The present work, composed in the late 17th century, follows in this tradition. The artist masterfully captures the quiet nobility of the original Greek bust, though here Apollo is presented in the garb of a soldier. The smooth finish of the Carrara marble and virtuosic treatment of Apollo's curly mane and diadem is a testament to the artist's remarkable skill as a sculptor.
Also of note here is the sunburst medallion Apollo wears upon his breastplate. It is a clear reference to his position as the Greek god of the sun, however, it also alludes to Louis XIV, King of France at the time of this sculpture's creation. The 72-year reign of Louis XIV, the longest in European history, not only enhanced the power of the monarchy, but catapulted France to become the most powerful nation in Europe. Louis XIV built Versailles during his reign to reflect the grandeur of the King and his court. Known as the Sun King, Louis XIV fashioned himself after Apollo and enjoyed being portrayed as the god, and several portraits busts of the king include similar sunburst medallion breastplate details.
40" high x 29" wide x 14" deep