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Statue of Apollo

Roman art

Statue of a nude male, smaller than life size, displayed on a plinth. The work depicts Apollo reworked as a hero or Alexander the Great. The torso, with the joins for the arms and thighs, is ancient, while the rest of the body is restored. The head, which is modern and inserted into the base of the neck, bears signs of later modifications. Based on iconography and style, the original part of the sculpture might have been carved in an urban workshop during the imperial period, drawing on early Hellenistic models.

Object details

II secolo d.C.
white marble
total height (with plinth) cm 88,5; statue cm 81; height of original body cm 33; head cm 11

Collection of Giovan Battista Della Porta, acquired by Giovan Battista Borghese from Giovanni Paolo Della Porta, 1609. Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, no. 91. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1828 restoration and integrations
  • 1996 Consorzio Capitolino.


This Apollo, reworked into a young hero or Alexander the Great, is very likely one of the two ‘Gladiators’ that Iacopo Manilli and Domenico Montelatici reported were displayed in the Seneca Room. In the seventeenth-century display, which was maintained between the time of Scipione and that of Marcantonio Borghese, these statues were mounted on two black marble columns along the west wall on either side of the famous sculpture of the dying Seneca that is now in the Louvre (Manilli 1650, p. 62; Montelatici 1700, p. 256; I Borghese e l’antico, p. 159).

Still listed in that location in the Inventario of 1792, the statues, both of which are smaller than life size, seem to correspond with the ‘Gladiators’ that Giovan Battista Borghese acquired in 1609, on behalf of Paul V, from the sculptor Giovanni Paolo Della Porta along with the rest of his antiquities collection (ASV, AB 348, busta III, no. 32; AB 456, 17, no. 2; AB 1007, no. 270, p. 48. De Lachenal 1982, pp. 90–93). Together, the Della Porta marbles and the Ceoli sculptures, acquired in 1607 by Scipione, formed a large part of the Borghese antiquities collection, which was expanded over the years to include marbles and statues that came not only from the antiquities market but also the excavation of the family’s land.

It is listed alone and described as a ‘statuette of a young hero in Greek marble’ in a document dated 1828 and drawn up by Prince Camillo’s minister Giuseppe Gozzani (who had taken the place of his father, Evasio Gozzani), detailing the works entrusted to Antonio D’Este and Francesco Massimiliano Laboureur for restoration and relocation in the villa. In particular, the sculpture was "gathered and put back together. The nose and the right hand with the sword hilt were done" (Moreno, Sforzini 1987, p. 363). It is not clear, however, which of the two sculptors did the cleaning, patination and assembly, along with the restoration of the nose and the right hand with the sword hilt. As for the insertion of the arms, the legs and the head with neck, attached to the torso with plaster, we can imagine, considering the seventeenth-century display, that the sculpture entered the collection with this work already complete, possibly carried out by Della Porta himself. The head, which is modern and reworked, shows signs of exposure to atmospheric agents.

The only ancient part is the nude torso, with the joins for the thighs and the arms beneath the shoulders. The balteus that crosses diagonally over the chest must have supported the attribute on the figure’s left side, while the right hand must have been holding an object. The tilt of the shoulders, in fact, suggests that the left arm was bent, and the right arm was extended forward. The first restoration therefore accurately reconstructed the position of the limbs, the body’s equilibrium and the movement.

The antiquarian interpretation of the iconographic type as a hero holding a sword is a different matter. The tension of the torso and presence of the balteus instead suggest an Apollo as a cithara player, on the model of the statue from the Baths of Leptis Magna (in the Tripoli Museum) and a statuette in the Istanbul Museum. In both cases, the strap is used to support the cithara on the figure’s left side and the right hand holds a plectrum. The models for the work date to the late fourth century (Moreno, Viacava 2003, p. 140).

The stylistic rendering of the Borghese torso corresponds to that of sculptures produced in urban imperial workshops, drawing on late-Hellenistic types and models.

An interesting aspect of the iconographic reconstruction is the nineteenth-century reworking of the head, which seems to be an antiquarian interpretation of Alexander the Great. This subject was especially popular during the Napoleonic period, when it was exploited in the self-celebratory image world of the empire. When it was joined by the statue of Paolina as Venus Victrix in 1889, the young hero in this guise, relocated to a corner of Room I, seems to have been meant to evoke the glory days of Camillo (Moreno, Sforzini 1987, p. 91).

The Inventario del Fidecommesso Borghese of 1833 confirms that the statue was in Room III and displayed on cipollino marble column drums immediately before it was moved to its current location.

  • I. Manilli, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana, Roma 1650, p. 62.
  • D. Montelatici, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana con l’ornamenti che si osservano nel di lei Palazzo, Roma 1700, p. 256.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 20.
  • G. Giusti, La Galerie Borghèse et la Ville Humbert Premier à Rome, Roma 1904, p. 19.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1954, p. 8.
  • R. Calza, Catalogo del Gabinetto fotografico Nazionale, Galleria Borghese, Collezione degli oggetti antichi, Roma 1957, p. 9, n. 47.
  • P. Moreno, Museo e Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, p. 11.
  • P. Moreno, S. Staccioli, Le collezioni della Galleria Borghese, Milano 1981, p. 102.
  • L. De Lachenal, La collezione di sculture antiche della famiglia borghese e il Palazzo in Campo Marzio, in “Xenia” 4, 1982, pp. 49-117, in part. pp. 60, 90.
  • 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. 363.
  • A. Gallottini, Philippe Thomassin. Antiquarium statuarum Urbis Romae liber primus (1610-1622), in “Bollettino d’Arte”, volume speciale, Roma 1995.
  • K. Kalveram, Die Antikensammlung des Kardinals Scipione Borghese, in “Römische Studien der Bibliotheca Hertziana”, 11, Worm am Rehin 1995, p. 199, n. 79.
  • P. Moreno, L’antico nella stanza, in Venere vincitrice: La Sala di Paolina Bonaparte alla Galleria Borghese, Roma 1997, pp. 73-117, in part., pp. 90-91.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, p. 140, n. 103.
  • I Borghese e l’antico, catalogo della mostra, (Roma, Galleria Borghese, 2011-2012), a cura di A. Coliva, Milano 2011, p. 158.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/ 00147854, P. Moreno 1975; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2021