At a glance
- Sculptor: Gian Lorenzo Bernini
- Medium: Marble
- Height: 243 cm
- Location: Apollo and Daphne Room at Villa Borghese
Photos by Steven Zucker via Flickr
In Greek mythology and Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the futile romance between the sun god Apollo (Phoebus) and the river nymph Daphne results in a chase that ends with Daphne pleading with her father to change her appearance so that her beauty will no longer appeal to Apollo.
Executed between 1622 and 1625, Bernini’s “Apollo e Dafne” depicts the climax of the story: when Apollo is finally able to lay a hand on Daphne, she is already undergoing metamorphosis into a laurel tree. Despite this transformation, Apollo lost none of his fervour and vowed to honour her forever: “Since you cannot be my bride, you must be my tree! Laurel, with you my hair will be wreathed, with you my lyre, with you my quiver. You will go with the Roman generals when joyful voices acclaim their triumph, and the Capitol witnesses their long processions. You will stand outside Augustus’s doorposts, a faithful guardian, and keep watch over the crown of oak between them. And just as my head with its uncropped hair is always young, so you also will wear the beauty of undying leaves.”