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Saturday, May 29, 2021

Apollo of Piombino, not just a Roman copy of an older Greek original but, attempt at Roman forgery of ancient Greek art

When I posted the image of a lampholder depicted as Apollo in the archaic style which is part of the new exhibit, Tota Italia, a couple of days ago, another Facebook member asked me for an image of the complete statue.  The exhibit did not provide a full length image of it so I checked the website for the National Archaeological Museum in Naples and could not find it there either. I also checked Wikimedia Commons and didn't have any luck there. I found a small side view of the full statue just in a general image search then found a full length image of the Apollo of Piombino which is another archaic-style sculpture of Apollo that is said to be very similar to the one in the exhibit that was found in Pompeii in the House of C. Julius Polybius.  Found in 1832 at Piombino (Roman Populonia), in Etruria, Apollo of Piombino depicts either the god Apollo as a kouros or youth or it may be a worshipper bringing an offering.   The bronze is inlaid with copper for the boy's lips, eyebrows, and nipples. The eyes, which are missing, unlike the statue found in Pompeii, were of another material, perhaps bone or ivory.

The Apollo of Piombino  was originally dated to the 5th century BCE by various scholars and was purchased for the Musée du Louvre in 1834.  The two sculptors responsible for the piece could not resist secreting inside the sculpture a lead tag inscribed with their names, though, which was found when the sculpture was conserved in 1842. In 1967, classicist B. S. Ridgeway, stated it to be not simply an archaizing sculpture of the 1st century BCE, of the kind designed to appeal to a Roman with refined tastes, but a consciously fabricated Roman forgery, with a false inlaid inscription of silver in archaic lettering on the left leg. He pointed out the inscription dedicated this Apollo to Athena, an anomaly as well.  When the similar sculpture of Apollo was found in 1977 in the villa of C. Julius Polybius in Pompeii, this corroborated Rideway's theory.  

Apollo of Piombino now in the collections of The Louvre, Paris.




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