A festal procession of the “Apolline Triad” traverses the foreground of the relief. Apollo, his sister Diana, and their mother Latona, all in long robes, walk towards a circular altar at the right. Beside it stands the winged goddess of victory. Apollo holds his stringed instrument (kithara) in his left hand and an offering bowl in his right, into which Victoria pours wine from a pitcher high above. Diana, recognizable from her quiver and bow, holds a torch in her left hand. Latona carries a scepter in her left hand and raises her right hand behind her shoulder to lift up her mantle. The scene is framed by a pillar on each side. On the smaller pillar at right is a nude statue of Apollo; the three-sided pillar at left once supported a tripod. The offering takes place in a sanctuary, as indicated by the wall behind the gods – marking out the limits of the sanctuary (temenos) – and, looming beyond it, the temple. Set perpendicularly to the wall, the temple is accurately rendered in all its architectural detail: eight Corinthian capitals, an architrave with a meander pattern, a frieze depicting a chariot race, acroteria and palmette antefixes on the roof, and a pediment with sculptures of tritons beside a gorgoneion shield. A knotty plane tree projects up from behind the wall at right. The sacral atmosphere of this dignified procession and its offering is underscored by the representation of the figures in a style that consciously imitates older forms. Among these archaizing elements are the mannered splaying of the fingers seen on all four figures, the elongated proportions of the bodies, and the artfully stylized zig-zag (or “swallowtail”) folds of the clothing. The subject and style of the relief can be connected to the great significance of Apollo as the personal patron god of Octavian/Augustus following the battle of Actium in 31 BC. Augustus even erected a new temple for the god directly beside his own house on the Palatine, as well as restoring older temples of Apollo (such as that by the Circus Flaminius).
This relief is in fact far from unique: 16 other examples are known and have been classified into three types based on several basic differences between them. In the Berlin piece, the serial nature of the reliefs is also evident in four incised points – three on the upper border of the temenos wall and a fourth in front of Latona’s left foot – that were used by the copyist to measure his work in relation to the model. Yet the reliefs, universally products of the first century BC, do not necessarily look to a single prototype from an older period. Rather, they adopt various iconographic and stylistic features from late Hellenistic art: the addition of old trees in the context of sanctuaries, for instance, and the archaistic style of the figures. Type II, of which the Berlin relief is an example, is the latest of the three types. The sculptor who created this variation added several new elements, most notably the architectural background, the circular altar, and the triangular pillar at left once crowned by a tripod.