The sculpture of the Apollo Belvedere "'is the consummation of the best that nature, art, and the human mind can produce,' said J.J. Winckelman in 1755. From the day it was discovered, sometime late in the fifteenth century, until well into the nineteenth, the Apollo Belvedere evoked the praise of artists, poets, and the learned world, and the admiration of a long succession of ladies and gentlemen who came to Rome on the grand tour. It is a Roman copy of Hadrianic date...The god, nimble of body and light of foot, seems to float into our purview...Apollo's action cannot be connected with any mythological event; opinion prevails that the god of light and prophecy here manifests himself to his worshipers as through an epiphany, in all his radiance and beauty. Opinion holds also that the original statue was probably made about 320 by Leochares, an Athenian and a sculptor at the court of Alexander the Great" (Havelock, 124).
Thomas Carlyle brings the Apollo Belvedere into his discussion of glorifying artwork in "Hudson's Statue." He builds his own view of the statue in his mind and mockingly calls it "the new Apollo Belvedere." Carlyle sarcastically praises the wealthy patrons for their funding the building of these statues, claiming these men hold no real sentiment for the honored subjects. The reference to this established and revered work from Hellenistic times makes Carlyle's point all the stronger by contrasting a representative of great art with the meaningless statue of Hudson he sees in the near future. He talks of the new Apollo Belvedere as an atrocity against the fabric of the inspiring art of the past.
He continues in this passage, "Allah Ilallah, there is still one God, you see, in England." Here, the writer uses the Apollo Belvedere as a reflection on society's worship of statues. Throughout his essay, Carlyle speaks of gods of several different religions such as Vishnu, the Hindu god, Loki and Odin, Norse gods, and, above, the Moslem name for God, Allah. In a sense, he likens statues to gods, giving rise to questions about the nature of this one God of which he speaks. Perhaps Carlyle fears the loss of true religious passion and devout worship of true heroes to the false statues erected of figures such as Hudson. At any rate, the Apollo Belvedere serves as the author's image of the classical and honorable form of art that these new statues undermine.
Havelock. Hellenistic Art. New York Graphic Society: Greenwich, Conn., 1970.
Last modified 23 October 2002