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Praxiteles and the Apollo Sauroktonos

Essay by   •  December 8, 2011  •  Essay  •  884 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,859 Views

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Praxiteles and the Apollo Sauroktonos

In all of ancient history up into today's world, it has been custom for new and growing civilizations to barrow, modify or gather certain techniques, styles or even lifestyles from the great civilizations they had just conquered or parted from and apply these ideas to their new civilizations. Although many cultures did this, none did this quite as often or quite as well as the Ancient Romans. It can be said that the Romans "loved everything Greek." Of the many things the Romans "barrowed" from the Greeks, one we can be most grateful for is their art and the many duplications of Greek sculptures. Many of the Greek originals cast is bronze have been melted down, as the bronze was more valuable in other forms. If it were not for the many Roman copies carved from marble, we would not know of many of these great works of art.

Although we can say that the Roman duplicates "saved" much of the Greek art, this begins to pose a problem for art historians at many levels. It becomes difficult to classify works as Greek or Roman. Narrowing this broad collection of all ancient Greek and Roman statues down a bit, there is one in particular that has been topic of great interest, mostly in the last decade. The sculpture I speak of is Apollo Sauroktonos or Apollo the lizard slayer. This work is so popular due to its controversial attribution. There is a bronze version of this work that stands in the Cleveland Museum of Art that many have attributed to the famous Greek sculptor Praxiteles. There is also a Roman copy of this piece carved in marble that now stands in the Louvre. It is argued still to this day whether or not the bronze statue is truly an original piece of work by Praxiteles.

The story behind this statue goes something like this. Young Apollo was to join the ranks of the gods only once he had killed a dragon python. In the Apollo Sauroktonos, Apollo is shown leaning against a tree with an arrow in his hand while a small lizard climbs the tree toward him. This is not believed to be the key python that Apollo must kill, but based on his young stature, it is thought that this moment of slaying the lizard is just a practice session for Apollo. Obviously this information is not available in the bronze but is depicted very well in the Roman copy. Based on the posture of the two pieces, the imagery seems to match quite well and the Roman copy gives us the information about the story that we need.

Included in the reference material about this sculpture, there are many accounts speaking on behalf of its authenticity. The Cleveland has done lots of research to date and has tried to put together a history of locations for this piece. Many others, such as the country of Greece itself, have their input saying the statue was "stolen" or has not been obtained legally. Others say the statue is a false

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