APOLLO E DAFNE
Gian Lorenzo Bernini created for Cardinal Scipione Borghese an unprecedented masterpiece depicting the metamorphosis in laurel of the Nanny caste, Dafne, pursued in vain by Apollo, god of light.
Cupid is offended by the words of the god so triggers a love tragedy. The Apollo and Daphne sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini is one of the most famous interpretations of the myth.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Apollo and Daphne, 1622-1625, marble, h 243 cm. Rome, Galleria Borghese
DAFNE TURNS INTO A LAUREL PLANT
Apollo chases Daphne because he is in love with her. The nymph instead does not return the desire of the god. Thus he flees to the river and his father Peneus transforms it into a laurel plant. Apollo has reached Daphne and is about to grab the nymph. The god is naked and covered by a cloth wrapped around his right shoulder and hips. His hair is long and moves elegantly in the wind. Apollo grabs Daphne with his right hand. With the left hand instead the god holds himself in balance in the race. He wears shoes on his feet. The god leans on his right leg while the left leans back. His lips are ajar and gasp for the run and desire.
Daphne runs forward to escape Apollo. The goddess arches the body to gain some advantage over the god. Daphne is naked and her body is turning. Herfeet indeed become roots. The nymph tries to lift the right foot already stuck to the ground. The bark wraps around her body and her hands rise to the sky, turning into leaves. The goddess’ face has a frightened expression and her mouth is wide open for running and fear.
INTERPRETATION OF THE MYTH OF APOLLO AND DAFNE
The story of Apollo and Daphne is taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Cupid threw an arrow with a silver tip and hit Apollo. Instead an arrow with the lead point struck Daphne. The silver tip led to love. That of lead removed love. Cupid was driven to throw arrows from jealousy. Apollo in fact boasted to him that he had killed the python snake.
THE STYLE OF THE APOLLO AND DAFNE STATUE BY GIAN LORENZO BERNINI
The statues sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini express movement thanks to dynamic postures. Apollo and Daphne run forward and their expressions are intense. Apollo’s muscles are in evidence to represent the effort of the race. Daphne’s body, on the other hand, is soft and elegant.
The surface of the marble is carved in different ways. Rough to represent the bark. Perfectly smooth to make the skin of the two protagonists. Just sketched instead for the rocks.
When Marcantonio IV Borghese wished to place the work in the center of the room in 1785, Vincenzo Pacetti designed the current base using the original pieces, plastering the plinth of the group and adding another cartouche with the Borghese eagle, sculpted by Lorenzo Cardelli.
THE COMPOSITIVE STRUCTURE OF APOLLO AND DAFNE
The Apollo and Daphne statue is very balanced. In fact some parts expand in space while others contract. Furthermore the lines of force create two curves. One runs along Apollo’s body. The second coincides with the bow drawn by Daphne’s body. Bernini has created a set of shapes in which space creates voids that make sculpture light. The two figures then project themselves upwards as if they were light.
The Apollo and Daphne sculpture was commissioned to Bernini by Cardinal Scipione Caffarelli-Borghese. It was also the last request that the famous collector made to the artist. The sculptor began the work at the age of twenty-two, in 1622. He was then forced to interrupt the work in the summer of 1623. He was to finish the David commissioned by Cardinal Alessandro Peretti. Bernini resumed the execution of Apollo and Daphne in 1624 with the help of the sculptor Giuliano Finelli who took care of the roots and leaves. In 1625 the sculpture was finished and immediately achieved great success.
Domenichino also interpreted the myth of Apollo and Daphne in one of his paintings.