Apollo Belvedere

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Joshua Reynolds (1723—1792) portrait and history painter and art theorist

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Marble statue (Vatican Mus.) of the Greek god Apollo, discovered towards the end of the 15th century (the exact date is unknown, as is the place of discovery) and named after the Belvedere Court in the Vatican, where it was displayed from 1511. It is probably a Roman copy of a Classical or Hellenistic Greek bronze, and Leochares has been proposed as the sculptor of the lost original. For centuries it was regarded as one of the supreme masterpieces of world art and the absolute standard for male beauty, and it was often copied or adapted, for example by Bernini in his Apollo and Daphne and by Reynolds, who painted his Commodore Keppel in the posture of the statue but in 18th-century dress. From the later 19th century, however, its reputation declined and it now seems cold and academic to many critics. Whereas to Winckelmann it appeared ‘the most sublime of all the statues of antiquity’, to Kenneth Clark it seemed that ‘in no other famous work of art are idea and execution more distressingly divorced.’ From 1798 to 1815 the statue was in Paris, one of the prizes taken there by Napoleon.

Subjects: Art.

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