Saturday, February 8, 2014

Apollo and Daphne: How Details Might Not Be as They Seem

Apollo and Daphne: Baroque marble sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1622-1625)

Housed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome, the Apollo and Daphne sculpture depicts the climax of an ancient pagan story about the mythological Daphne who was transformed into a laurel tree by her father to escape the affections of Apollo. Within the cold, hard, marble, Bernini shows Daphne's skin changing to bark, her toes elongating to roots, and her arms sprouting into leaves and branches of a tree. Apollo's face is shown with surprise as he watches his lusting prize turn into this nature.

"In my opinion, not even the ancients did anything to equal it," Bacci says. 

Before this sculpture, other painters had used this mythological metamorphosis as subject for their works. Yet, for the first time, in the carved form, Apollo and Daphne became a work of true art. Bernini "attracted everyone's eye" who saw it, yet was he solely responsible for this almost supernatural feat? 

Bust of Giuliano Finelli 

Many of the details of this sculpture...the roughness of the bark, the flying of the tresses of the nymph's hair, and the leaves are details which amaze viewers even today...were executed by Biuliano Finelli, a sculptor from Bernini's workshop. According to Jennifer Montagu, a co-curator of the Getty show, wrote that Bernini focused mostly on the large picture and left the details to his assistant. Giuliano Finelli resented the lack of credit given to him and left to have a very successful and independent career. 

What comes to question is how many works are accredited to a single artist which might not have been completely worked on by that single artist? Should Giuliano Finelli be given equal credit to this masterpiece?

Either way, the Apollo and Daphne sculpture continues to be praised for it's "astonishing both for mechanism of art and elaborateness, is full of charm in the ensemble and the details." English sculptor John Flaxman commented.

Helpful Links:

Atsma, Aaron J. "DAPHNE: Naiad Nymph of Thessaly or Arcadia, Greek Mythology." DAPHNE: Naiad Nymph of Thessaly or Arcadia, Greek Mytholgy. Theoi Project, 2007. Web. 16 Mar. 2014. <>.
Lubow, Arthur. "Bernini's Genius." Smithsonian. Smithsonian Magazine, Oct. 2008. Web. 08 Feb. 2014. 

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