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Bernini, Apollo and Daphne, 1622-25 (Galleria Borghese, Rome) Voices: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.
Video transcript
(piano music playing) Beth: We're in the Borghese in Rome, looking at Bernini's Apollo and Daphne. Cupid has done ... Steven: Some mischief, yeah. and has helped Apollo to fall in love with Daphne. Steven: Thanks to an arrow. Beth: And is pursuing her, and I think she's gotten an arrow of the opposite type. Steven: That's right, so she is repulsed by him. Right, but she's supposedly incredibly beautiful. Steven: So the story is that she appeals to her father. She's a nymph. She appeals to her father that she does not want to marry, and Apollo won't leave her alone. Cupid gives him a little assist, and he's able to actually catch up with her. Beth: And this is the moment when he wraps his arm around her. Steven: She calls out for her father's help, and her father solves the problem by turning her into a laurel tree. Beth: Which is happening ... Steven: Even as he catches Beth: Right. I was gonna say as we speak, because this feels like almost as a movie. Steven: Unfolding, it's true. In time, it's such an expression of the Baroque. Beth: To rebreathe, the way it flies back behind Apollo. Steven: A kind of velocity. Beth: Ripping around his body, fluttering out behind him. Steven: But even as he's sort of really moving forward, and he has a beautifully delicately rendered body, but she then arcs up, and is transformed, almost against her own will, and you see the sense of surprise, and almost horror in her face. Beth: Oh, absolutely, as her fingers turn into branches and leaves. Steven: And as he wraps his hand around her abdomen, he touches only the bark that forms around her. I mean, this is all about not attaining beauty and Apollo's passion. Beth: Almost having the thing that you want in your hands, and having it slip out at that very moment when you attain it. Steven: But even as he's carelessly pursuing her, there is also delicacy for him. Look at the way his fingers are stretched out, as if she's just recognizing what's happening to her, and is taken aback, even as his body is sort of slowing down in his pursuit of her. Beth: Mm-hmm. You think it's a sort of moment of recognition for him? Steven: It is. His eyes on her, sort of realizing Beth: Yeah, that's true. A kind of sadness. Steven: Sadness as he's taking in the expression of the tragedy on her face. Beth: It also seems to be a kind of metaphor for sculpture itself, of turning one form into another. Steven: But this is, in a sense, a reversal of taking a natural material and turning it into flesh. This is the opposite. This is taking flesh and turning it back into a natural material. Beth: That you might sculpt out of. Steven: That's right. Steven: So that's interesting. This is a kind of meditation then on what sculpture is. Beth: And Bernini, more than anyone else, that's what he does. He makes marble seem like the wings of an angel or like a cloud. Steven: And of course the story resolves in that she turns into a rooted tree, and he determines that he will always tend that tree and protect it. (piano music playing)