19th Century
Study of the Apollo Belvedere

Graphite on paper
Image size: 13 3/4 x 26 inches (35 x 66 cm)


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This is most likely to be a drawing from an Academy student, executed as part of their academic training. The academic training often included executing copies of plaster casts of sculptures and drawings by master artists.

The sculpture is the marble statue of Apollo, currently held in the Vatican Museums. A marble statue of 88 inches (2.24 meters) of a beardless, athletic Apollo. The statue was discovered in the 15th century. It was probably found around 1485 in Anzio, 35 miles south of Rome. The statue itself is a copy of an Ancient Greek bronze statue.

In this sketch we can see how the surface of the statue is very smooth, with the graphite having been used with great skill as it has been blended seamlessly between areas of deep shadow and bright lights. Apollo’s face shows a neutral expression. He steps forward a bit with his right leg and throws back his cloak over his left shoulder to show his fully naked body. He looks to his left and has his left arm stretched out to support his cloak.

Apollo’s  beautiful curly hair has been accurately depicted with lines of deep shadow. His hair is tied on the top with a band and his curls hang down his neck. Around his torso, he is wearing a quiver to hold his arrows. He is also wearing sandals. On the left side, the statue is supported by a tree trunk that can just bee seen here behind Apollo’s leg. The viewer can just see a snake carved on the left side of the tree, its body suggested to us in the graphite.

It is not entirely clear what mythological story is depicted in this statue, though it is suggested that Apollo originally was carrying a bow and arrow. This pose may represent Apollo who has just released an arrow with the bow that he was holding in his left hand. Some people suggest that this statue represents the moment that Apollo has just killed the serpent (which is a dragon) Python. The snake on the left, which may be a python, may serve as additional evidence to support this story.