The Apollo Lyceus is a statue type known from numerous sources: literary; numismatic; and sculptural. The 2nd century A.D. Roman author Lucian informs that a figure of the god stood in the Athenian gymnasium known as the Lyceum: "You see his statue -- the figure leaning against the pillar, with the bow in his left hand; his right arm bent back above his head" (Anacharsis, 7).
Greek and Roman coins show images of the statue, the earliest minted in Athens at the end of the 2nd century B.C., the latest coming nearly four centuries later, confirming the enduring popularity of the subject (see nos. 39b & e in Lambrinudakis, et al., "Apollon," in LIMC). Numerous marble versions of the statue survive from throughout the empire, all of which are Roman variations of a now-lost Greek original. It is not known who sculpted the original, although the type was once associated with Praxiteles. Nearly all have thick center-parted hair but for one, the so-called Apollino from the Medici collection, now in Florence (fig. 7 in Haskell and Penny, Taste and the Antique) which, like the head presented here, has an additional top-knot.
It was the whim of Roman sculptors to reverse the pose from the original prototype. Our Apollo had his left arm over his head rather than the right, as evinced by the remains of small struts in the hair along the proper right side.
When this head first appeared at auction in 1930 as part of the Ercole Canessa Collection, it was said to be from Catania, Sicily, and thought to be Greek work of the 3rd century B.C. It was acquired in that sale by Herbert Fleishhacker of San Francisco, who loaned it to that city's de Young Museum. In the mid 1970s it was included in an exhibition at Berkeley, "Echoes From Olympus: Reflection of Divinity in Small-Scale Classical Art," where it was still considered Greek. However, current scholarship now recognizes that the deep drill work defining the hair is characteristic of Roman sculpture of the 2nd century A.D.