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Work The Lillebonne Apollo

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Roman Art

Apollon

© 1997 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Roman Art

Author(s):
Astier Marie-Bénédicte

Discovered in 1823, near the ancient theater in Lillebonne, this is the largest bronze statue of a deity to have survived from ancient Gaul. Apollo, considered a beneficent god, held a lyre in his left hand - a configuration that was particularly favored in northern and central-eastern Gaul. The proportions and balance of the figure, and the way the hair is arranged, testify to the strong influence of Greek forms from the fourth century BC on Gallo-Roman artists.

The tribulations and restorations of the Lillebonne Apollo

This gilded bronze statue was discovered on 24 July 1823, in the vicinity of the ancient theater at Lillebonne (near Rouen, in the Seine-Maritime region). It was sold in England and remained in London for nearly thirty years in the hands of the collector Samuel Woodburn, who hoped to sell it to the British Museum. In 1853, it was purchased by the French State and joined the Louvre collections. The statue, representing the god Apollo, was cast in several sections using the lost-wax method. It was restored on many occasions, perhaps starting as far back as the classical period. The presence of numerous join marks on the surface of the bronze would explain the presence of the gilding, which was done with gold leaf. It is difficult to be certain about the date of the gilding; the statue may have been gilded at the time it was cast, then a second time at the end of the Roman imperial period.

The cult of Apollo in Gaul

The Lillebonne Apollo is one of the largest bronze statues to have survived from ancient Gaul. The youthful-looking god is completely naked and will originally have held a lyre (now lost) in his left hand, a configuration that was particularly highly valued in northern and central-eastern Gaul, where similar votive statuettes have been found in large numbers. Apollo was considered a beneficent, healing god and was associated with several other, often ill-defined local deities - Amarcolitanus, no doubt, as well as Belenus, Borvo, Cobledulitavus, Grannus, Moritasgus, Vindonnus, and Virotutis. Many Gallo-Roman shrines bear marks of the cult of Apollo, whether or not they are situated near to springs with healing properties.

A Gallo-Roman work inspired by a Greek model

The proportions and balance of the Lillebonne statue, together with the way the hair is arranged, demonstrate the influence of Greek models on the artists of Roman Gaul. Made in the second century AD in the region of Lugdunum (modern Lyons), the sculpture draws much of its inspiration from the classical tradition. It imitates the "contrapposto" developed by Polyclitus in the middle of the fifth century BC and echoes the (similarly near-adolescent) silhouettes of the male figures created in the fourth century by sculptors such as Praxiteles, Euphranor, and Scopas; it also adopts the canon of extremely elongated forms seen in the works of Lysippus, in which the proportions of the head are deliberately reduced. The posture and characteristics of the god are likewise borrowed from the artistic repertoire of ancient Greece.

Bibliography

B. Tailliez, "Trente ans d'histoire de l'Apollon de Lillebonne", Revue du Louvre et des musées de France, 1982, 2, p. 81-88, fig. 1, 3-6.
N. Duval, "L'Apollon de Lillebonne de l'abbé Cochet à nos jours, tribulations et restaurations", Centenaire de l'abbé Cochet, 1975, Actes du colloque international d'archéologie, Rouen, 1978, p. 265-286.
P. Zanker, Klassizistische Statuen, Mainz, 1974, p. 103-104, n 6.
E. Espérandieu, H. Rolland, Bronzes antiques de la Seine-Maritime, XIIIe supplément à Gallia, 1959, p. 24-25, n 10, pl. 3-5.

Technical description

  • Apollon

    IIe siècle après J.-C.

    Provenance : Lillebonne (Seine-Maritime), à proximité du théâtre antique

    Production gallo-romaine

  • Bronze doré. Les surfaces de recouvrement des feuilles d'or, appliquées à l'aide de mercure, composent un quadrillage encore visible par endroits, notamment sur les cuisses

    H. : 1,94 m.

  • Acquisition 1853

    Br 37

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Bronzes room
    Room 32, temporarily closed to the public, works n
    Vitrine I7

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