Gian Lorenzo Bernini's extraordinary rendition of Apollo and Daphne (1622-25), in the Galleria Borghese, is hailed by many as one of the finest sculptures in Rome.
Commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1577-1633), it depicts the climax of the story of Apollo and Daphne, as recounted in book one of Ovid's Metamorphoses. Daphne, a river nymph, is escaping from the god Apollo. As she flees she slowly turns into a laurel tree.
Apollo declared that if Daphne would not be his wife, she would at least be his tree. He duly granted the laurel tree with eternal youth and adopted the crown of laurel leaves, which subsequently became the symbol of Olympic victories.
Bernini (1598-1680) had significant help from a member of his workshop, Giuliano Finelli (1601-53), who undertook the carving of the details that show Daphne's conversion from human to tree, such as the bark and branches, as well as her windswept hair.
Blogging about Rome:
its art, history and culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
small-group walking tours
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