Apollo and Daphne
- A mythological story from Ovid's Metamorphoses, often represented in art. Apollo ridicules Cupid for his archery skills, so Cupid retaliates by causing the god to fall in love with the wood nymph Daphne. Tired of Apollo's advances, Daphne flees but the god follows her. She screams for help and the river god Peneius protects her by transforming her into a laurel tree. Frustrated and distraught, Apollo declares the laurel to be his sacred plant to be woven into wreaths to crown heroes. One of the earliest representations of the subject in Renaissance art is Apollo and Daphne by Antonio del Pollaiuolo (1470-1480; London, National Gallery), where the god takes hold of the nymph whose arms have already taken on the form of branches. The image denotes the victory of chastity, so prized in the Renaissance, over sexual desire. In the early 17th century, Gian Lorenzo Bernini provided one of the most dramatic representations of the mythical story (1622-1625; Rome, Galleria Borghese). In this sculpture, Daphne's body is in the actual process of transformation. Bark partially encloses her lower body, her toes have begun to take root, and branches and leaves are slowly sprouting from her fingers.
Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. Lilian H. Zirpolo. 2008.
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