The Lansdowne Throne of Apollo. Marble, Roman, late 1st century.
This high-backed marble throne is perhaps the most remarkable work of Roman sculpture in LACMA’s collection. Despite its elaborate decoration, the artfully decorated legs terminating in lion’s paw feet, and the front pair topped by eagle heads - it could hardly have been sat upon. Cloth and animal skin realistically drape the cushion on the seat, but they are all carved in marble. Furthermore, the back of the chair is adorned with figures in high relief. A sinuous snake weaves its way in and out of an archer’s bow, below which is a quiver full of arrows. The throne was purchased at a sale in 1798 by William Petty Fitzmaurice, second Earl of Shelburne and first Marquess of Lansdowne (1737-1805). His collection of ancient sculptures was among the most celebrated of its time, and many statues were acquired from Italy with the help of the Scottish artist and dealer, Gavin Hamilton (1723-1798).
The find-spot of the throne is unknown, which means that we can not be certain as to its original purpose. However, since thrones were generally associated with figures of high status, such as gods and heroes, it is reasonable to think of it in some sort of ritual or religious setting. The objects in high relief provide further clues. The bow and quiver are regularly associated with the god Apollo, and the snake might refer to the fearful serpent Python, guardian of the oracle at Delphi, which Apollo slew in his youth. The throne was given to LACMA by William Randolph Hearst, who had acquired it at the sale of the Lansdowne Collection in 1930.