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Current time:0:00Total duration:5:32

Video transcript

we're in the Galleria Borghese in Rome and we're looking at one of Boerne Mia's first major Commission's Apollo and Daphne this is a fabulous story of eros the god of love causing quite a bit of mischief people may know eros as Cupid and what happens is Apollo the god of music and poetry insults arrows and eros takes his revenge arrows fashions two arrows one made of gold and one made of lead he pierces Apollo with the golden arrow which makes him fall in love with the nymph Daphne and he Pierce's Daphne with an arrow of lead which makes her repulsed by Apollo no Daphne we should say has dedicated her life to being a virgin to remaining unmarried this was very important to her and so she flees Apollo's advances but eros gets involved again and while Daphne is very Swift and is able to flee from Apollo eros gives Apollo a bit of a push and he catches up to Daphne Daphne has besieged her father a River God to help her escape and he intervenes so that at the moment that Apollo catches up with her she turns into a laurel tree and that's what Bernini gives us this is the very moment when Apollo catches up with Daphne wraps his hand around her torso and she begins to transform into that tree and we can see the bark growing out of the earth coming up around her her fingers turning into branches and leaves her toes forming into roots even as Apollo reaches around her waist to touch her belly his hand touches only bark and so it is at this moment of transformation and what a perfect subject for Bernini who transforms this rock marble into something that looks as if it's in motion and it's living flesh typical for Baroque art this cought moment in time figures in motion Apolo on one leg the other leg behind him the drapery flowing up behind him in midair Daphne's hair also pushing back we feel them moving through space we feel the atmosphere around them we forget that this is marble an unforgiving stone that is brittle and heavy well especially those laurel leaves that row between them they are so delicate and so easily broken it's true with a hammer and chisel it is so easy to chip away and have something break this stands in such contrast to the Renaissance where you have a sense of stability you have a sense of clarity here is a wonderful sense of disorder a sense of confusion a sense of change and motion well we could think for example of an early work by Michelangelo like the Pieta where the forms take the shape of a pyramid the most stable of forms but here in Baroque art were interested in instability we see arcs we see the arcs of the body the arcs of the arm the arcs of the drapery the drapery is my favorite because if you follow it and have to move around the sculpture to see where it goes starting at Apollo's hip wrapping around going over his shoulder and then finally moving around Daphne herself but it's important to note that the sculpture was intended to be against a wall and it originally was the sculpture is now in the center of the room which allows us to move around it but it does have its most perfect view in front and also to the side is a lovely view and what's especially interesting to me is the difference in the expressions between daphne and apollo apollo seems to have just the beginnings of a recognition of the tragedy that is taking place that he's both catching up with and also losing forever his beloved Daphne although it seems to me that he's on the side of I'm still going to have Daphne I'm still going to have what I want his face still looks mostly tranquil to me but his right arm reaches behind him and the way that his wrist is flexed feels to me as though there's that moment of oh no something is happening a bit of surprise especially the way those fingers splay out and simultaneously Daphne's face is both an expression of horror and of a kind of blankness we see both her recognition and her loss of her humanity I mean this is a tragic thing she has chosen to return to the earth to a non-human form rather than be beloved by the god Apollo but Apollo will continue to love her and in fact Ovid writes Apollo loved her still he placed his hand where he had hoped and felt the heart still beating under the bark and he embraced the branches as if they still were limbs and kissed the wood and the wood shrank from his kisses and the God exclaimed since you can never be my bride my tree at least you shall be let the laurel adorn henceforth my hair my lyre my quiver let Roman Victor's in the long procession where laurel wreaths for triumph and ovation beside Augustus's portals let the laurel guard and watch over the oak and as my head is always youthful that the laurels always be green and shining he said no more the laurel stirring seemed to consent to be saying yes you