The Lansdowne Throne of Apollo.

This is a stunning marble throne which was excavated in Italy in the 18th century and is full of symbolism. It was purchased in 1798 by William Petty Fitzmaurice, the first Marquess of Lansdowne an Irish-born British Whig statesman who was the first Home Secretary in 1782 and then Prime Minister in 1782–83 during the final months of the American War of Independence. This throne remained in his family until the 1930s when his reduced descendants sold off their whole collection of classical art. The buyer of this piece was William Randolph Hearst, an American newspaper publisher who built the nation’s largest newspaper chain and media company Hearst Communications who then gave it to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it still resides. Unfortunately for some unknown and unexplained reason, this decadent throne is not on display. 

The bow and quiver are regularly associated with the god Apollo, a pagan deity, the god of the sun, light music and prophecy and the snake might refer to the fearful serpent Python, guardian of the oracle at Delphi, which Apollo slew in his youth.

  • Culture: Roman
  • Date: late 1st century
  • Medium: Marble

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.

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. 

Clothed in a cloak, a high relief sinuous snake weaves its way in and out of an archer’s bow, below which is a quiver full of arrows.