The Joy of Museums

Finding Beauty & Meaning in Museums

Apollo the Python-Slayer

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Apollo the Python-Slayer also called Apollo Sauroktonos (Apollo Lizard-killer) is attributed to the master sculptor Praxiteles (Greek, 400 – 330 BC). This is a rare and precious historical object as it is the only known life-size bronze version of the Apollo Sauroktonos.  Praxiteles’s original creation represents Apollo’s victory over the Python, representing a triumph of order (kosmos) over disorder (chaos).

There are several 100 – 200 AD Roman marble copies of the original Greek sculpture. The statues depict a young male about to catch a lizard climbing up a tree. Marble copies the Apollo Sauroktonos can be found in the collections of the Louvre Museum, the Vatican Museums and the National Museums Liverpool.

Apollo Saurocton Louvre

Apollo Sauroktonos in marble, a Roman copy from the 1st–2nd centuries AD after a Greek original from the 4th century BC. At the Louvre Museum

The Greek bronze statue features Greek techniques in the way the sculpture was cast, the copper inlays of the lips and nipples and the stone insert for the undamaged right eye are consistent with a date in the 400 BC.

Cleveland Museum of Art - Joy of Museums 5

The bronze Apollo Sauroktonos is thought to have been created by Praxiteles about 350 BC. Androgynous sensuality and gracefully curved poses are hallmarks of his style. This bronze is the only large Greek bronze statue that can be attributed to the master Greek sculptor, Praxiteles. His famous “Aphrodite of Knidos” introduced the life-size nude female figure to Western art.

Cnidus Aphrodite Altemps Inv8619

The Aphrodite of Knidos a Roman marble copy of a Greek original introduced the life-size nude female figure to Western art. (The Ludovisi Cnidian Aphrodite at the National Museum_of Rome – Palazzo Altemps) 

The finest large classical Greek statues were bronzes, unfortunately most ancient bronze statues have been lost or were melted down to reuse the valuable metal. Roman copies in marble and bronze often provide our primary visual evidence of masterpieces by famous Greek sculptors. This “Apollo the Python-Slayer” partially survived the ravages of time and with it we can enjoy and marvel at the sculpture of ancient Greece.

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Essential Facts:

  • Title:                        Apollo the Python-Slayer (Apollo Sauroktonos)
  • Date:                         350 BC
  • Medium:                 bronze, copper and stone inlay
  • Dimensions           150 x 50.3 x 66.8 cm (59 x 19 3/4 x 26 1/4 in)
  • Museum:                 Cleveland Museum of Art

Artist Essential Facts:

  • Name:             Praxiteles of Athens
  • Dates:              4th century BC (400 BC – 301 BC)
  • Famous Works:
    • Hermes and the infant Dionysus
    • Apollo Sauroktonos
    • Apollo Lykeios
    • Leto, Apollo and Artemis
    • Aphrodite of Cnidus

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““I declare
That later on,
Even in an age unlike our own,
Someone will remember who we are.”
Sappho

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Photo Credit: 1) By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 2) After Praxiteles [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 3) By English: Copy of Praxiteles; restorer: Ippolito Buzzi (Italian, 1562–1634) Français : Copié de Praxitèle; restaurateur : Ippolito Buzzi (1562-1634) (Marie-Lan Nguyen (September 2009)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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