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Apollo Triumphant over Python

Artist or maker:
Raon, Jean (b.1630, d.1707)
Date:
1699
exhibition date of model
Place of production:
Paris, France
Medium:
marble
Type of object:
statues
Accession number:
6150.1

Commentary

This statue was probably made for the gardens of the chateau of Versailles, whose sculptural pantheon was central to the cultivation of Louis XIV’s image of himself as Apollo and the court his Parnassus. Apollo personified the enlightening power of man’s reason. He was patron of poetry and music and the leader of the Muses – the goddesses of poetic inspiration and the creative arts.

As told by the ancient Roman writer Ovid, the tale of Apollo’s triumph over the monstrous Python is a bloody one. However, in this sculpture, Raon underplayed its violence, focusing instead on the masterful serenity of the god after the struggle. He contrasted the smoothness of Apollo’s skin with the carefully carved scales of the monster with its lion-like claws.

Raon probably exhibited a plaster model of this sculpture at the Salon in 1699 under the title ‘Victory stamping on Discord’. It was paired with a model of Vigilance – presumably a female figure – but no trace of that is known. In this context, the subject of Apollo and Python bore contemporary religious connotations, including victory over heresy, following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) and over Louis XIV’s foreign enemies – the League of Augsburg or the opponents gathering in response to the crisis of the Spanish Succession. A drawing in the Bibliothèque nationale, Paris, amongst a folder of designs for French royal sculptures, appears to be the model for the work, although drawn by another artist.

Jean Raon travelled to Rome in the late 1660s where he was greatly influenced by the Italian baroque sculptor Bernini. He combined Bernini's style with his own distinctive restraint. Raon spent the rest of his life making sculpture for Louis XIV’s palaces and other official buildings, glorifying the monarch. This was probably his last work although it relates to the severe classicism of his earlier years rather than his more Baroque works.

Juliet Carey, 2012

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
2059 x 736 x 533
Physical details:
White marble. Part of the right forefinger and of two toes of the right foot are missing.
Signature & date:
not signed or dated
Marks:
E
Incised mark
at back

History

Provenance:
Acquired by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (b.1839, d.1898); inherited by his sister Alice de Rothschild (b.1847, d.1922); inherited by her great-nephew James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); bequeathed to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1957.
Collection:
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957

Bibliography

Bibliography

Florent Le Comte; Cabinet des singularitez d'architectue, peinture, sculpture, et graveure, ou Introduction a la connoissance des plus beaux arts, figurés sous les tableaux, les statuës, & les estampes, etc.; 3 vols; Paris; Le Clerc; 1699-1700; vol. 3, p. 214; probably this work.
Jules Guiffrey; Collection des livrets des anciennes expositions depuis 1673 jusqu'en 1800.; Paris; Liepmannssohn et Dufour; 1869; 1699, p. 20; Exposition 1699, most probably the model for this work.
François Souchal, A Royal Statue, the Waddesdon "Apollo", The Burlington Magazine, CXI, April 1969, 192-196; figs. 14-16; dated 1699.
Terence Hodgkinson, Anthony Blunt; Sculpture: The James A de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; Fribourg; Office du Livre; 1970; pp. 244-249, cat. no. 92, ill.

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