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Work Apollo of the Kassel Apollo type

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

Author(s):
Lepetoukha Charlotte

The posture of this statue of Apollo, as well as the structure of the face and the hair, are typical of the work of Athenian sculptors between 460 and 470 BC. On the strength of the descriptions given by Pausanius, statuary of this type was either attributed to Kalamis (in which case it would be the Alexikakos Apollo, "averter of evil", in the Agora in Athens) or, more frequently, to Phidias (in which case it would be the Parnopios Apollo, "the locust killer", of the Acropolis).

Male nude

The statue represents a naked man, standing with his feet flat on the ground. The tree trunk was added by the copyist and serves only to ensure the stability of the marble; it was not part of the original work, which was probably a large bronze. The hair, held in place by a headband and plaited at the back, is arranged in curly strands separated by a central parting. Two ringlets fall smoothly behind each ear. This elaborate coiffure surrounds a heavy oval face given a somewhat austere expression by the thick eyelids and full lips.

From Mercury to Apollo

Restored first of all as Mercury, this marble statue entered the collection of Cardinal Richelieu in 1631 and was placed in the courtyard of his chateau. A second restoration, of which only the legs remain, turned it into Bonus Eventus, a Roman harvest god, for its presentation at the Louvre. In point of fact, the long hair and youthful physiognomy show it to be an effigy of the god Apollo, and it is now presented as such.
The Louvre statue reproduces a type that bears the name of the most complete surviving example, today in Kassel (Germany). Examination of the other replicas makes it possible to reconstitute the gesture made by the figure; the left hand, raised at elbow height, will have clasped a cylindrical object (probably a bow, the attribute of Apollo), while the right hand, lowered, may have held a sprig of laurel, the tree traditionally associated with the god.

A work characteristic of the severe style

The "Kassel type" Apollo was one of the responses of Athenian sculptors in the fifth century BC to the problem of representing a moving body, an essential issue in the evolution of the male nude. The heel of the free leg has not yet left the ground, and the shoulders are still on a horizontal plane, but the hips are moving in response to the forward movement of the right leg. This is still in the early classical style, before Polyclitus developed the solution of "contrapposto". The face, with its heavy features, and the arrangement of the hair also indicate that the original can be dated between 450 and 460 BC. The pronounced eyelids, thick mouth, and strong chin are all characteristic of the severe style that flourished between 480 and 450 BC.
In his Periegesis (Guide to Greece), Pausanias mentions two statues of Apollo that could match this dating: the Parnopios Apollo (the "locust killer") by Phidias and the Alexikakos Apollo ("averter of evil") by Kalamis. But however tempting it might be to seek a famous name behind a type of statuary whose fame is shown by the number of copies that have come down to us, attribution to either of these two sculptors, none of whose work is known with certainty to have survived, must remain largely a matter of supposition.

Bibliography

SISMONDO-RIDGWAY B., Fifth Century Styles, 1981, pp. 184-185.
HARRISSON E. in PALAGIA O., POLLITT J.-J., Personal Style in Greek Sculpture, 1996, pp. 64-65.

Technical description

  • Apollo of the Kassel Apollo type

    Imperial period (early second century AD?), after an original made circa 460 BC.

    Italy

    Italy?

  • Marble, sculpture in the round

    H. 2 m

  • Former Richelieu collection; confidcated during the French Revolution, 1800

    Inventaire MR 117 (n° usuel Ma 884)

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

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Additional information about the work

The legs are modern from the knees down.