The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of April 19, 2024

The Cleveland Apollo: Apollo Sauroktonos (Lizard-Slayer) or Apollo the Python-Slayer

The Cleveland Apollo: Apollo Sauroktonos (Lizard-Slayer) or Apollo the Python-Slayer

c. 350–200 BCE

attributed to Praxiteles

(Greek, Athenian, c. 400–330 BCE)
Base: 0.5 x 47.3 x 40.7 cm (3/16 x 18 5/8 x 16 in.); Overall: 150 x 50.3 x 66.8 cm (59 1/16 x 19 13/16 x 26 5/16 in.)
Location: 100 1916 Lobby

Did You Know?

The Cleveland Apollo is the only surviving large-scale bronze sculpture of its type, Apollo Sauroktonos (the Lizard-Slayer).


The Cleveland Apollo has been called both Lizard-Slayer (Sauroktonos) and Python-Slayer. The first name comes from the Roman author Pliny the Elder (23–79 CE), who noted in describing bronze works made by the Athenian sculptor Praxiteles (active around 370–330 BCE), “the youthful Apollo [is] known as the Sauroktonos because he is aiming an arrow at a lizard [Greek sauros] which is stealing toward him.”

Scholars have long connected this description with artworks showing the young Greek god Apollo in a distinctive pose and hairstyle, standing on his right leg and leaning to his left. In more completely preserved versions, Apollo reaches toward a tree with his left arm and seems to take aim at a lizard. The Cleveland Apollo shows the adolescent god similarly posed and coiffed, making it an important addition to the Apollo Sauroktonos group—the only surviving large-scale bronze sculpture of the type. The young Greek god Apollo, identifiable by his distinctive hairstyle and pose, stands on his right leg and leans to his left, probably toward a now-lost tree. Although now separated, the left forearm and hand survive, together with an unusual lizard-like creature, perhaps drawn from the world of myth. A flat bronze base also remains, though it may be a later adaptation. A tree or other support has been lost, probably smaller than in the marble versions.

Given its material and very high artistic quality—note the lifelike hair, fingernails, and inlaid copper lips and nipples—more than one scholar has suggested that the Cleveland Apollo could be the very sculpture seen by Pliny. Some have called the sculpture “Python-Slayer,” seeing the oddly shaped serpentine creature with asymmetrical legs as the mythical Python killed by Apollo in establishing his sanctuary at Delphi. But technical details may explain some of the asymmetry, and no other specific evidence connects it to Delphi. Most scholars would retain the name Sauroktonos (Lizard-Slayer) for the Cleveland Apollo, even as some debate whether it was made by Praxiteles himself or a later follower.
  • The surviving bronze sculpture comprises 6–10 originally cast sections of the main figure. The creature and base represent separate castings, and the right hand may have also been cast separately. Together with the tree or other support, now missing, there may have been an original larger total of 15 or more cast sections. These separately cast sections were attached with bronze fusion welds, where molten bronze was poured between the two pieces to join. One of these joins is easily seen on the right foot, where two ovals are visible on the top surface. Other evidence of ancient manufacture includes chaplet or core pin holes, most visible in the hair of the figure but also seen throughout the body on radiographs and the interior. The hair has additional visible tool marks, which demonstrate that sharp tools were used after casting to refine the lines indicating strands of hair. The head includes eyeholes for separately made eyes, and the right has been called ancient. When viewed from the interior of the head with a borescope, the eye is held in place with split bronze tabs. The eye has a carved circular depression in the center that would have held a separate inlay for the iris and pupil. Separately inlaid material was also used to create the lips and nipples, which are composed of a high-purity copper that has been hammered into shallowly cut channels. Scientific analyses have shown that all the sections of the original sculpture were composed of a high-lead, low-tin bronze, and all the parts were cast from the same melt, including the base plate and creature. Based on metallographic analyses, the sculpture appears to have been exposed to intense temperatures in the past, such as a fire, and this may be responsible for some of the damages visible today, such as the protruding area of metal on the right calf. Other notable areas of post-manufacture damage include the deformation and fragmentation of the right side of the torso, the large dent in the right thigh, and some gouges on the right arm and shoulder. The sculpture was reconstructed in the 1990s or early 2000s based on received modern history and analysis of restoration materials. Radiographs show clearly that the sculpture has been broken into dozens of fragments, and those fragments appear to have been largely reconstructed with tinted resin bulked with fiberglass. Additional materials used for reconstruction include plaster, wire mesh, and an internal armature composed of acrylic and steel rods. Research on Apollo continues with other forms of analysis and the creation of 3-D models to help better understand the original appearance and history of this sculpture.
  • Ernst-Ulrich Walter, Germany
    [Phoenix Ancient Art, 2004]
    The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
  • "Original, copie, représentation antique? Quleques considérations sur les images d'Apollo Sauroktonos," in eds. Colloque international sur les bronzes antiques, Crişan Muçeţeanu, Lucia Teposu Marinescu, Christina Ştirbulescu, and Valentin Bottez, The Antique bronzes typology, chronology, authenticity : the acta of the 16the International Congress of Antique Bronzes organised by the Romanian National History Museum, Bucharest, May 26th-31st 2003 (Bucharest: Cetatea de Scaun, 2004), pp. 301-304.
    "Acquisitions of the year," Apollo: The International Magazine of Art and Antiques. (December 2004). p. 51 (ill.).
    Brand, Arthur. Het verboden Judas-evangelie en de schat van Carchemish. Soesterberg: Aspekt, 2006. p. 140, fig. 6
    Praxitèle. Paris: Société française de promotion artistique, 2007. p. 207, fig. 126a
    Laugier, Ludovic. "Praxitèle et la Polychromie," Dossier de l'Art, no. 139 (March 2007) p. 56
    Harris, Lucian. "Louvre will not show Cleveland Apollo." The Art Newspaper vol. XVI no. 178 (March 2007)
    Flescher, Sharon, "Cleveland Museum Returns 14 Works To Italy," IFAR Journal vol. 11 (9), 2009 p. 7, fig. 3
    Barbillon, Claire, and Sophie Mouquin. Écrire la sculpture: de l'antiquité à Louise Bourgeois : une anthologie. Paris: Citadelles & Mazenod, 2011. p. 37
    Olszewski, Edward J. "Praxiteles' Apollo and Pliny's "Lizard Slayer."" Source: Notes in the History of Art 31:2 (Winter 2012) p.4, fig. 1A
    Cleveland Museum of Art, David Franklin, and C. Griffith Mann. Treasures from the Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland, OH: Cleveland Museum of Art, 2012. pp. 38-9
    Bennett, Michael J. 2013. Praxiteles: The Cleveland Apollo. Cleveland: The Cleveland Museum of Art.
    Brinkmann, Vinzenz. Zurück zur Klassik: ein neuer Blick auf das Alte Griechenland : eine Ausstellung der Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt am Main, 8. Februar bis 26. Mai 2013. München: Hirmer, 2013. Abb. 230, p. 222 ; Abb. 234, p. 224 ; Abb. 242, p. 226 ; Abb. 243, p. 227 ; Abb. 247, p. 229 ; p. 214
    Gill, David. Context Matters 'The Cleveland Apollo Goes Public' The Journal of Art Crime 10 (Fall 2013): 71-75. Mentioned: p. 71-75
    Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland Art: The Cleveland Museum of Art Members Magazine. Vol. 53 no. 05, September/October 2013 Mentioned and reproduced: Cover-2, 8
    Cleveland Museum of Art. The CMA Companion: A Guide to the Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 2014. Mentioned and reproduced: P. 83
    Snyder, Colleen, Ernst Pernicka, and Peter Northover. "The Cleveland Apollo: Recent Research and Revelations." In Colloque International Sur les Bronzes Antiques. Artistry in Bronze: The Greeks and Their Legacy: XIX International Congress on Ancient Bronzes, Jens Daehner, Kenneth D. S. Lapatin, and Ambra Spinelli, eds., 329-340. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum and the Getty Conservation Institute, 2017. Mentioned and Reproduced: p. 329-340
    Daehner, Jens and Kenneth D. S. Lapatin. Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World. Firenze : Giunti, 2015. Reproduced: pp. 24-26, fig. 1.6;
    Stephen Ongpin Fine Art, and Stephen Ongpin. Renaissance to Futurism: A Selection of Italian Drawings, 1500-1920. 2015, 6. Mentioned in notes section, No. 2, Note 1 (unpagenated)
    Todisco, Luigi. Prassitele di Atene: scultore e bronzista del IV secolo. Roma: Giorgio Bretschneider editore, 2017. TAV. XII Reoroduced: TAV. XII
    Angelicoussis, Elizabeth, Daniella Ben-Arie, and Andrew F Stewart. 2017. Reconstructing the Lansdowne Collection of Classical Marbles. Edited by Gerard M.-F Hill. Munich: Hirmer. Pp. 113-117, Fig. 13.10.
    Neils, Jennifer. “Praxiteles to Caravaggio: The Apollo Sauroktonos Redefined.” Art Bulletin 99, no. 4 (December 2017): 10-30. Mentioned and reproduced: P. 13-14, fig. 7; P. 18, fig. 13
    Childs, William A. P. Greek Art and Aesthetics in the Fourth Century B.C. Princeton, NJ: Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University, in association with Princeton University Press, 2018. Mentioned: p. 195; Reproduced: p. [439] pl. # 182
    Stewart, Peter. "Ancient Greek Artists and Texts: Loss and Re-Creation," 47-58. Catherine M. Draycott, Rubina Raja, Katherine E. Welch, and William T. Wootton. Visual Histories of the Classical World: Essays in Honour of R.R.R. Smith. Turnhout : Brepols, 2019. Reproduced: p. 51, fig. 4.2' Mentioned: p. 52
    Isacker, Philip van, and Helen Simpson. De Sculptura: Reflections on Sculpture. Ghent : Mer. B&L, imprint of Borgerhoff & Lamberigts, 2021. Mentioned and reproduced: p. 207, fig. 168
    Pevnick, Seth and Colleen Snyder. "Shedding New Light on an Ancient Bronze Figure: Ongoing Research on the Cleveland Apollo" CMA Thinker on Medium (June 16 2022).
  • Praxiteles: The Cleveland Apollo. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (organizer) (September 29, 2013-January 5, 2014).
  • {{cite web|title=The Cleveland Apollo: Apollo Sauroktonos (Lizard-Slayer) or Apollo the Python-Slayer|url=false|author=Praxiteles, Follower|year=c. 350–200 BCE|access-date=19 April 2024|publisher=Cleveland Museum of Art}}

Source URL: