Georg Raphael Donner

ca. 1725

Lead-tin alloy
Height 63 cm



The slender figure of the youthful Apollo leans against the stump of a tree, his left foot resting on the tree-root. He looks pensively towards the left, following the direction of his hand, which holds some object of which only a fragment has survived. As his model for this composition, the sculptor Georg Raphael Donner looked to a work in the collection of the Princes of Liechtenstein, the bronze sculpture “Apollo and Cupid” executed by François Duquesnoy (1579–1643) between 1630 and 1640 and still in that collection. Before long, however, Duquesnoy’s group came to be seen as a work of antiquity. It was no doubt this error that caused Donner to attribute to the bronze figure the exemplary quality generally reserved for classical sculptures. Whereas Duquesnoy’s Apollo is instructing Cupid in archery, Donner focuses only on the main figure, omitting the little god of love. By eliminating the narrative context, Donner simplifies and clarifies that supposed product of antiquity.

Donner’s work occupies a special position in the first half of the eighteenth century, in that his works show clear contours and organic movement in place of the emotionalism and the turbulence of the Baroque and its delight in creating an illusion. After the sculptor’s early death, his estate passed to his brother Matthäus (1704–1756). The latter donated Georg Raphael’s small sculptures to the Vienna Academy, where they served as a collection of models to be studied and emulated. Thus, although Georg Raphael Donner himself had never taught at the Academy, his works came to have an important stylistic influence on Viennese sculpture.