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Apollo Bath: Artistic Legacy and Cultural Authority

by Laura Tinkler

Johann Joachim Kändler German, 1706-1775 Apollo, from the ‘Apollo Bath’ centerpiece, c. 1748 Porcelain with clear glaze 21 3/16 in. (53.8 cm) Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gift of the William E. Shipp Estate, by exchange 2012.

Apollo, from the 'Apollo Bath,' is a porcelain figure from a centerpiece set, originally depicting the Greek god Apollo attended by six nymphs. In this piece, Apollo sits clad in laurels and partially clothed in a loose fabric, seated amidst water-worn rocks and a rock face adorned in flowers. The figure's posture, right arm outstretched and left foot unsupported, suggests Apollo is entering the water below. Notably, the back of the piece is bare, suggesting the piece is intended to sit against a wall or barrier, as viewers are only intended to see the front of the piece. Similarly, in this case, the letters on the bottom, "H" and "I," are not there to be viewed but rather to instruct how to order the figures in the set, and likely obscured by the dishes and foods the figures are placed.

This piece draws from the sculpture 'Apollo served by the Nymphs' (1667-1675) by François Girardon, which depicts a life-sized version of a similar scene set in marble, originally placed in the Apollos's Bath Grove in the Garden of Versailles (François Girardon). Girardon sculpted this for Louis XIV, 'the Sun King,' who often associated himself with Apollo, the God of peace, the arts, and the sun, as an expression of power and cultural authority. Similarly, 'Apollo Bath' was manufactured by the Meissen, a porcelain manufactory favored by royals and aristocratic patrons (Nichols).

Much like Louis XIV's association with Apollo, 18th-century royals and aristocrats sought to establish a parallel between their own authority and the symbolism of Apollo, reflecting their quest for power and cultural influence.


François Girardon. Palace of Versailles. (2021, July 1).

Nichols, S. (n.d.). AT TABLE: HIGH STYLE IN THE 18TH CENTURY. Carnegie Museum of Art.


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