Shedding New Light on an Ancient Bronze Figure | by Cleveland Museum of Art | CMA Thinker | Jun, 2022

Ongoing Study on the Cleveland Apollo

By Seth Pevnick, Curator of Greek and Roman Artwork and Colleen Snyder, Affiliate Conservator of Objects

Because its acquisition practically 20 many years ago, the Cleveland Apollo (Fig. 1), a rare case in point of a practically life-sized historical bronze sculpture, has turn out to be a CMA favourite. The youthful Greek god welcomes visitors from the Ames Spouse and children Atrium into the historic 1916 setting up, and quite a few cease to admire or ponder the function. A short while ago, even though, last October and yet again in January and February, Apollo was off check out as section of our most up-to-date investigate marketing campaign, aimed at comprehending extra about equally the initial manufacture and modern day reconstruction of the sculpture. We’ll share our conclusions later this calendar year at an worldwide convention on historical bronzes and will also revise gallery and on line didactics. In the meantime, in reaction to concerns from site visitors and personnel, we’ve written this weblog entry. Following a short overview of the sculpture, we share some thrilling discoveries, built via shut visible evaluation of the sculpture alone, radiography, and other advanced scientific analyses.

Figure 1. Apollo the Python-Slayer, a.k.a. the “Cleveland Apollo” on see in the galleries.


The Cleveland Apollo is the only surviving big-scale bronze of its iconographical variety, recognised as Apollo Sauroktonos (Apollo the Lizard-Slayer). This title comes from the Roman author Pliny the Elder (to start with century Ad). Describing bronze is effective made by the Athenian sculptor Praxiteles, active in the mid-fourth century BC, Pliny mentions “the youthful Apollo, recognized as the Sauroktonos, since he is aiming an arrow at a lizard [sauros in Greek] which is thieving toward him.” For centuries, students have related this description with quite a few artworks — in particular Roman marble sculptures (like Fig. 2)—showing the youthful Greek god Apollo in a unique pose and hairstyle, standing on his correct leg and leaning to his still left. With his still left arm elevated, he reaches toward a tree and seems toward a climbing lizard. The Cleveland Apollo belongs to this team, considering that it obviously shows the adolescent god similarly posed and coiffed. Remarkably, the remaining bronze forearm and hand also survive, alongside one another with an strange serpentine creature, all after portion of the sculpture. In addition, a modest flat bronze foundation stays, no matter whether from the authentic sculpture or a afterwards addition or adaptation. Unquestionably, a tree or other support has now been shed.

Figure 2. The Louvre’s Apollo Sauroktonos Image © 2006 Musée du Louvre / Daniel Lebée/Carine Deambrosis

Technical Aspects and Discoveries

Even ahead of its acquisition in 2004, students have had much to say about the Cleveland Apollo. Some have suggested it could even be the extremely sculpture noticed by Pliny, probably slaying the legendary Python alternatively than a mere lizard, even though others have considered it a later on, Roman sculpture. Shut study has demonstrated that it is a hollow-forged sculpture, created using the indirect shed-wax system (a method explained in this video). A sculpture this dimension would have been created in numerous sections, cast independently from molds then joined collectively by way of a approach termed move or fusion welding. Take note the ovals noticeable across the prime of the suitable foot, a distinct signal of the pooled bronze poured to be part of two sections (Fig. 3).

Determine 3. Two big ovals across the middle of the appropriate foot indicate wherever the leg and foot ended up flow-welded jointly.
Determine 4. The latest radiography has clarified that the head was forged to midneck (an arrow indicates the authentic edge). It has also assisted us map out former restorations the oval indicates a massive fix to the still left shoulder, the place the restoration content is significantly less dense than the bronze.

Other joins are a lot more complicated to place, but a new radiograph shows that the cast segment of the head, for case in point, extends to midneck (Fig. 4). While no evidence of the be a part of appears on the surface of the sculpture, one lacking historical patch on the back again of the neck may slide on or quite around the line. This kind of patches, often rectangular, surface on numerous other significant-scale bronzes, hammered into shallowly excavated places of the surface to cover small holes or other casting flaws. When new, both equally welds and patches would have been very carefully polished and integrated into the sculpture, making them even more complicated to spot. A lot more than 20 patches surface on the Cleveland Apollo, lots of of them close to the ideal hip (Fig. 5 a-b).

Determine 5a. Two patches ended up added to address flaws in the casting on Apollo’s chest and decreased neck. Determine 5b. A shallow rectangular despair on the appropriate buttock demonstrates the place a patch, now misplaced, was as soon as hammered in position to address this tiny void remaining by the casting approach.

Other exciting technical features contain the very real looking hair and fingernails, which exhibit proof of thorough ending with a procedure identified as chasing, traces ended up refined and manufactured more seen working with a sharp tool (Fig. 6 a-b).

Determine 6 a-b. Analyze below the microscope disclosed toolmarks that indicated traces in the hair have been refined soon after casting with sharp tools. This procedure is identified as chasing.

The lips and nipples, now colored environmentally friendly from corrosion, have been additional embellished by means of inlay in a purer copper alloy, which would have appeared as pink as a freshly minted penny, contrasting with the surrounding bronze pores and skin color. A trace of the initial color seems wherever the surface has been ruined, revealing the foundation steel (Fig. 7a-b). X-ray fluorescence, a non-harmful form of investigation executed in these regions, reveals the elemental makeup of each and every substance, confirming these noticeable dissimilarities.

Figure 7a. The XRF gun permits conservators to bombard the floor of an object with electricity, and the instrument supplies information on what elements are existing. This technique does not require a sample, so the artwork stays unchanged. (Fig. 7b) The inlaid copper nipple is lacking some of the area patina, revealing its vivid pink colour underneath. Beneath the nipple, one more authentic patch is visible.

Just as radiographs allow us to see the joins involving primary solid sections, they also reveal in which items of the sculpture have been fractured and later rejoined with modern adhesives and a stainless steel and Plexiglas armature. Surprisingly, a search inside the sculpture with a borescope, or a camera on the finish of a prolonged, fiberoptic cable (Fig. 8), showed that the past restorer utilised cardboard packaging from ladies’ stockings as backing to fill a compact hole in Apollo’s hip!

Determine 8. Just after getting rid of the present day, plaster inlaid remaining eye, we were in a position to see the inside of the head with the assist of a borescope.

Extra importantly, our investigations of the inside of the sculpture introduced to light numerous pieces of fired clay, probably associated to the unique clay main inside the working wax design. We now eagerly await the results of neutron activation assessment of one particular modest ceramic piece, which may perhaps convey to us additional about the original geographic resource of the clay.

Upcoming Strategies

Lastly, by combining images of the within of the sculpture with those people taken from outdoors, we are working with the electronic innovation group to produce a remarkably thorough electronic 3-D design of the sculpture. The present-day product, created from countless numbers of photographs of the sculpture, has not long ago been posted on our web-site, where by buyers can look into Apollo in depth just as we’re equipped to do in the lab! In addition to raising accessibility, we also use the product in our study. For case in point, with the texture taken out from the design, the surface area can be viewed extra obviously, allowing for us to pinpoint the places of joins, patches, and other technical functions (Fig. 9).

Figure 9. With the mottled inexperienced floor coloration taken out, the photogrammetric model has allowed us to far better visualize the specific geometry of the sculpture, like the quite a few patches and dents on Apollo’s correct side.

In the upcoming, we hope to use annotated models to share this style of data and to hypothesize about the original physical appearance of the sculpture, with its lacking and nonjoining parts correctly aligned. However, we may need to take Apollo again to the lab for additional study, and we value the persistence of our visitors every single time that he goes off perspective. Be sure to recall, you can generally see Apollo in Assortment On the web.