A Hellenistic Marble Head of Apollo, 2nd – 1st Century B.C.

Famously handsome and an expert archer, Apollo was a Greek — and, later, Roman — sun god, the son of Zeus and the Titan Leto (Letona). Headstrong at first, he grew to represent music, poetry, medicine and the civilized arts. According to legend, Apollo drove the fiery chariot (representative of the sun) across the sky each day. Next to Zeus, he was the most important and widely worshiped divinity in ancient Greek culture. Interestingly, while later antiquity identified Apollo with the sun, Homer completely distinguished the two.

As to the origin and the meaning of the name Apollo, there is no general agreement among scholars, though the weight of argument is slightly in favor of those who interpret it as “he who wards off,” and “he who drives away evil.” As is natural in the case of a god so widely worshiped, the legends of Apollo are highly diversified, though the main features show considerable unity, due to the overpowering influence of the cults at Delphi and Delos, which made their versions canonical. As has been previously mentioned, he was the son of Zeus and Leto, born with his twin sister Artemis on the island of Delos. After being born, the sun god hastened to Delphi and slew the dragon Python, who had pursued his mother during her sorrow.

This marvelous piece depicts Apollo with an oval face and a steadfast gaze. His centrally parted hair is pulled back, and a tress falls down each side of the neck. The ears are partially covered by his thick bands of hair. One can feel the powerful sense of determination exuded by the beautiful representation of the legendary divine figure.

Culture: Hellenistic.

Date: 2nd – 1st century B.C.

Material: Marble.

Condition: Minor damage to the nose, otherwise intact.

Provenance: Ex-French private collection; Sothebys Antiquities Auction, London, May 1992, A. von S. collection, New York, acquired from Royal-Athena.

Dimensions: H. 6 5/8 in. (16.8 cm.)

 

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