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Statue of Apollo

Roman art

A nude, male figure, sitting on a rock. The iconography of this statue allows us to identify its subject as Apollo. On the left side of the sculpture, there is a partially preserved base of a lyre, the musical instrument associated with Apollo. At the bottom left, there is also a snake, wrapped in a spiral. The god is wearing a chlamys that covers his shoulders and part of his chest, falling along his right side, covering the rock and pooling on his thigh. The sculpture was made during the Roman period but is a copy of a late Hellenistic model.

Object details

I secolo d.C.
fine grain white marble
total height cm 85, torso cm 48

Borghese Collection, unearthed during excavations in the Vigna Lucidi (1826?); Inventario fidecommissario Borghese 1833, C, p. 42, no. 12. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1990/1991 - ICR
  • 1997 - G.C. Mascetti
  • 2008 - Consorzio Capitolino


According to Antonio Nibby, this statue of Apollo sitting on a rock was found during excavation work at Vigna Lucidi in 1826 (Nibby 1841, p. 910). Vigna Lucidi was a Borghese property in Santa Croce, between Monte Porzio and Frascati, for which Cesare Lucidi had been granted an emphyteutic lease. News of the discovery is found in the Indicazioni of 1840 and of 1854 and was repeated by Venturi in 1893 (Venturi 1893, p. 9). However, the exact date of the discovery remains unclear, since the only relevant information we have is Lucidi’s excavation permit, which is, however, dated 12 January 1820 (Moreno, Sforzini 1987, pp. 347–348). It is uncertain, therefore, whether it was found in 1820 along with other sculptures – in particular, two colossal torsos and a statue of a seated emperor, all of which are also in the Borghese Collection and on view in the Salone – or, as reported by Nibby, in 1826, possibly during further excavations for which we have no other documentation.

The statue is missing its head, arms and legs, which were evidently carved in antiquity separately and then attached to the body with pins, the holes for which are visible. The torso seems to be pulled back and is slightly turned to the left.

Originally, therefore, the figure’s left side was resting on the lyre, part of the base of which is preserved on the rock. The right arm was, probably, bent and the right hand must have been resting on the thigh.

The god is wearing the customary chlamys, a generous mantle fastened over the shoulders. It falls in small waves over the chest and the rest of the fabric drapes down along the right side, covering the rock and pooling on the figure’s thigh. On the far left, along the rock, there is a snake partially wrapped in a spiral. This is probably a reference to the Python of Delphi, which was, according to the Greek myth, killed by the god’s arrows, after which the Pythian Games were instituted in its honour.

The youth and pose of the figure link the Borghese sculpture to the Seated Apollo in the Museo Barracco, which shares the same torsion and movement of the torso, as well as the plausible downward position of the left arm. Unlike the Borghese statue, however, the mantle of which falls in a generous pool on the right thigh, the drapery of the Barracco Apollo covers both thighs and leaves the neck bare. The arrangement of the legs is also slightly different: in the case of the Barracco statue, in fact, the left leg must have been lower. This aspect, together with the style, suggests that the model for that work might have been the seated Apollo on the east pediment of the Parthenon (Berger 1958, pp. 49–52, pls 10-11).

The snake links the Borghese sculpture to the Apollo of Delos, who is seated, however, on a throne and rests his right arm on its head. The pose and the movement of the torso in space are instead the same (Marcadé 1969, pp. 184–186, pl. XXX). Another possible comparison can be made with the Apollo of Cyrene (Paribeni 1959, no. 34, pl. 39), which has more precisely defined musculature but would have been a good late Hellenistic model for the Borghese statue, characterised by the lateral inclination of the legs.

As observed by Von Steuben (in Helbig, Speier 1966, pp. 699–700), compared to the Hellenistic prototype, the Borghese’s seated Apollo is marked by greater stylistic and compositional freedom, which can be seen not only in the addition of the generous mantle, but also the soft complexion and rendering of the creases on the belly.

These elements further emphasise the Borghese statue’s link to the Barracco Apollo. In both works, the influence of Lysippos on the spatial layout is combined with that of Praxiteles on the handling of the nude, confirming a shared model, reworked, in the case of the Borghese Apollo, during the Roman imperial period. The sculpture has been variously attributed to a Neronian or Flavian workshop (Moreno, Viacava 2003, p. 65).

The Fidecommesso Borghese of 1833 notes that the work had been in the portico and was mounted on a cippus (p. 42, no. 12; see Indicazione 1840, p. 7; Venturi 1893, p. 9).

  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1840, p. 7, n. 28.
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno 1838, Roma 1841, p. 910.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1854 (1873), p. 8, n. 37.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 9.
  • G. Giusti, La Galerie Borghèse et la Ville Humbert Premier à Rome, Roma 1904, p. 12.
  • P. Arndt, W. Amelung, Photographische Einzelaufnahmen antiker Skulpturen, X, 1, München 1925, p. 1, 2701 (Lippold).
  • W. Helbig, Führer durch die öffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertümer in Rom, II, a cura di H. Speier, Tübingen 1966 (4a), pp. 699-700, n. 1938 (Von Steuben).
  • E. Berger, Parthenon Ostgiebel, Bonn 1958, pp. 49-52, tav. 10-11.
  • E. Paribeni, Catalogo delle sculture di Cirene, Roma 1959, n. 34, tav. 39.
  • J. Marcadé, Au Musée de Délos. Étude sur la Sculpture Hellénistique en Ronde Bosse Découverte dans l’Ile, Paris 1969, pp. 184-186, tav. XXX.
  • P. Moreno, Museo e Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, p. 6.
  • P. Moreno, S. Staccioli, Le collezioni della Galleria Borghese, Milano 1981, p. 101.
  • O. Palagia, s.v. Apollon, in “Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae” II, 1, Zürich München 1984, p. 208, n. 180.
  • P. Moreno, C. Sforzini, I Ministri del Principe Camillo: cronaca della collezione Borghese di antichità dal 1807 al 1832, in “Scienze dell'antichità” 1, 1987, pp. 339-371; in part. p. 348.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, p. 65, n. 10.
  • M. Valenti, Gli scavi Borghese nella Vigna Lucidi a Frascati, in Lazio & Sabina 2, Roma 2003, pp. 187-192, in part. pp. 188-189.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/ 01008284, P. Moreno 1975; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2021