Study after a Plaster Cast of the Apollo Belvedere

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black chalk drawing of man's head lying horizontally, with thick hair

Study after a Plaster Cast of the Apollo Belvedere, ca. 1814
Black chalk on laid paper
32 x 34.5 cm
Signed and dedicated lower right in David’s hand, David à son ami Cuvier; inscribed lower left in a different hand, N. 87-1814
Collection Louise Grunwald

Cat. 1

Long considered an exemplar of ideal classical beauty, the full-length ancient marble statue known as the Apollo Belvedere (Vatican Museums, Rome) was widely copied by early nineteenth-century art students. In this drawing, possibly a comment on the distance between the classical tradition and modern life, David shows only the face of the god, lying across the page like a fragmented artifact or death mask. Later, he would claim: “I prefer an ugly head that thinks profoundly to a head copied after the antique because [in the latter] the lines are so pure that it is petrified in its nullity.” Dedicated to the French zoologist Georges Cuvier (1769��1832), David’s Apollo recalls the fossils that were crucial for that scientist’s theories of animal life.


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