Apollo e Dafne (1622-1625)

Bernini, Gian Lorenzo (1598-1680)

Apollo e Dafne (Apollo and Daphne)
Carrara marble, h. 243 cm
Galleria BorgheseRoma

Apollo here is depicted in the act of running, with his right foot touching the ground and his left raised; the garment which covers his sides and left shoulder accompanies his movement. Having attained the goal of his chase, he places his left hand on Daphne’s body. At the god’s touch, the nymph immediately gives up her flight and with her raised arms and face attempts to turn around; yet her feet have already become roots and her hands and hair have been transformed into laurel branches and leaves.

The subject of the sculpture group is the tale told by Ovid in the Metamorphoses: taking vengeance on Apollo, Cupid strikes him with a golden arrow that causes him to fall in love with the nymph Daphne, a follower of Diana. At the same time, Cupid shoots a dart of lead at the maiden, inducing her to reject the love of the god. Daphne begs her father Peneus, a river god, to change her appearance. The sculpture captures the culminating moment of her metamorphosis into a laurel tree. Bernini gives the subject the air of a theatrical performance, allowing the viewer to follow the transformation.

The sculpture was originally placed on one side of the room adjacent to the chapel, where it rested on a lower pedestal than the current one: this arrangement increased the scenographic effect of the work and hence the emotional involvement of the observer. (GB)

See also:

• Ovid (43 BC-17/18 AD): The Metamorphoses (English)

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