First look at Praxiteles: The Cleveland Apollo

(1.) Apollo Sauroktonos, head: AD 50–100; torso: AD 69–96. Roman copy after the original by Praxiteles (Greek, about 400–330 BC). Marble; H. 169 cm. National Museums and Galleries, World Museum, Liverpool, 1959-148-12. (2.) Apollo the Python-Slayer, formerly Apollo Sauroktonos (Lizard-Slayer), detail, c. 350 BC. Attributed to Praxiteles (Greek, c. 400 BC–330 BC). Bronze, copper, and stone inlay; 150 x 50.3 x 66.8 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 2004.30.a (3.) Apollo Sauroktonus, AD 1–100?. Roman copy after the original by Praxiteles (Greek, about 400–330 BC). Parian marble; H: 149 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris, MA441. Photo: Daniel Lebée / Carine Déambrosis. © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, New York.

Praxiteles: The Cleveland Apollo is an in-depth examination of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s ancient bronze sculpture, a figure known since antiquity as Apollo Sauroktonos, or Apollo the Lizard-Slayer. The masterwork will be showcased alongside two ancient Roman marble copies, one on loan from the Louvre Museum, Paris, France and the other from the Liverpool World Museum. This is noteworthy since all three sculptures have never been displayed together before. Praxiteles: The Cleveland Apollo will be presented September 29, 2013 through January 5, 2014 in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Julia and Larry Pollock Focus Gallery.

“We are pleased to highlight one of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s finest masterpieces, arguably the greatest ancient sculpture in a North American public collection, in this exhibition,” said David Franklin, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “It is unprecedented to bring these works together, allowing visitors a rare opportunity to compare the Greek bronze and the Roman marble copies.”

In the first century AD, the Roman author Pliny the Elder wrote in his Natural History (34.69–70) that the famous fourth century BC Athenian sculptor Praxiteles had created a bronze sculpture depicting a youthful Apollo about to stab a lizard with an arrow. He used the epithet sauroktonos (lizard-slayer) to refer to Praxiteles’s masterpiece, and this sculptural type popular into the Roman Imperial period, appearing in marble copies and engraved on coins and gems. In 2004, the Cleveland Museum of Art acquired the only known bronze version of the sculptural type.

Through careful study and analysis, the museum has determined not only that Apollo Sauroktonos is almost certainly an original work made by Praxiteles, but also that expert investigations and laboratory tests of samples from the sculpture and its base conclusively prove that the sculpture was not a recent discovery and that it was not recovered from the sea. Additionally, research by Dr. Bennett indicates that the Apollo is not a sauroktonos at all, but rather a python-slayer, and that the sculpture was most likely originally installed in the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. 

“The Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi is the only place in the ancient world where this Python-Slayer by Praxiteles belongs. The sculpture represents Apollo’s victory over the Python, a triumph of order over chaos at the sacred place considered by the Greeks the Omphalos, the navel, or center, of the world,” said Dr. Michael Bennett, curator of Greek and Roman art.

Praxiteles: The Cleveland Apollo is accompanied by a 124-page book authored by Dr. Michael Bennett, in which he recounts in narrative form the discovery and acquisition of the Apollo as well as subsequent scholarly investigations leading to the renaming of the famous masterpiece. Bennett’s other publications include Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome (2013), Magna Graecia: Greek Art from South Italy and Sicily (2002), and Belted Heroes and Bound Women: The Myth of the Homeric Warrior-King (1997) 

> Praxiteles: The Cleveland Apollo 
> Sicily: Art and Invention Between Greece and Rome 
> Purchase Praxiteles: The Cleveland Apollo catalog



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