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Apollo and Daphne


Artist

Bernini Gian Lorenzo
(Naples 1598 - Rome 1680)

Type

sculpture

Period

'600

Inventory

CV

Technique

Carrara marble, high 243

Origin

Collection of Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1617)

The subjet of the sculptural group is Ovid’s tale from his Metamorphoses (I, 450-567), where he tells of Apollo, on whom Eros takes revenge by shooting him with an arrow made of gold, the noblest metal, making him fall for the nymph Daphne, a disciple of Diana. The nymph, instead, is pierced by a dart made of lowly lead, rejects the god’s love, and begs her father, Peneus, a river god, to help her change the features that have aroused such passion . The work represents the crucial moment of Daphne‘s metamorphosis into a laurel tree.
Bernini created a theatrical staging in which the viewer’s eye follows the development of the transformation. After a run, Apollo has reached his beloved, whose feet have already become roots and hands and hair a single leafy branch; he attempts to grab her, but his fingers graze not her body, but the bark of the tree. From that moment laurel was to become dear to the god – who would tie it around his head – and be considered an attribute of artists and poets.
Originally the sculpture was placed on the side of the room next to the chapel and rested on a plinth that was lower than the current one, which increased the theatrical effect and thr viewer’s emotional involvement.