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Europe 1300 - 1800

Bernini, Apollo and Daphne

Bernini, Apollo and Daphne, 1622-25 (Galleria Borghese, Rome) Voices: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

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  • leaf green style avatar for user ColeKuethe
    How does turning one's daughter into a tree solve anything?
    (9 votes)
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    • female robot grace style avatar for user merawaters
      He panicked?

      The stories vary. Though all say she was an avowed virgin (possibly a priestess or at least an acolyte but had taken the vows of celibacy in any event), most stories say that she was the daughter of Gaia (earth goddess) and her father was a river god, either Ladon or Pineios. An earlier version of this tale claims that as the infatuated Apollo is about to overtake her, she cries out to her mother Gaea who opens the earth to swallow Daphne and who then creates and posits a Laurel tree on the site to console the disappointed Apollo.

      The Greek poet Ovid in his mythological poem, Metamorphoses, is credited with embellishing the story and having her cry out to her father who changes her into a laurel tree. I think his artistic license also caught the imagination of classical artists who often painted and sculpted scenes from mythology, and generally depicted Daphne as transforming into a laurel tree. And frankly, isn't the idea of a girl metamorphosing into a tree just as she is about to be ravished by the sun god more picturesque than Apollo standing next to a tree scratching his head?

      Incidentally, this event is credited with being the reason that the laurel became the sacred tree of Apollo and why esteemed athletes are crowned with laurel and scholars are deemed laureates.
      (24 votes)
  • male robot johnny style avatar for user giancarlo
    Did she stay as a tree for her whole life? at -?
    (3 votes)
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  • leaf red style avatar for user Carla Cristina Almeida
    What exactly are nymphs? I thought they were the daughters of the god Pan, but her father was actually the river god Pineios, so what qualifies someone as a nymph?
    (2 votes)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nymph
      A nymph (Greek: νύμφη, nýmphē [nýmpʰɛː]) in Greek mythology and in Latin mythology is a minor female nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform. Different from other goddesses, nymphs are generally regarded as divine spirits who animate nature, and are usually depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing; their amorous freedom sets them apart from the restricted and chaste wives and daughters of the Greek polis.
      (3 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user rshort24
    Is Bernini better than Michelangelo ?
    (1 vote)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user marianalaura.val
      I believe that depends on each historian's opinion. They were both geniuses, I really don't think we should compare them. They are similar in how they influenced the artists to come enormously.
      However, Bernini worked keeping in mind the classic art much more than Michelangelo, who was always innovating and taking elements of what was known to be classic, and yet used it in a non-classic way.
      (3 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user brooklynpluskkequalsbffs
    I love the story
    even though I don't believe it
    (1 vote)
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  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Queen Alexandria
    i find this sculpture quite similar to the sculpture , Bernini's "Pluto and Proserpina" (also known as "The rape of Proserpina")(the previous video in this list is about that sculpture)

    Why would he create two sculptures of the same form and pattern even though the stories and characters are different ?Is there any connection ?
    (1 vote)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Olivia Zapp
      I'd say the clear subject similarities might offer some insight. Clearly he had a little understanding of how most people react to feeling violated--imagine having to go with someone who horrified you and live for (what you believe to be) eternity? Becoming the wife to someone who disgusts or repulses you, or just not being at all interested because of your vows, but being disregarded because of the desire of another? His depiction of this utterly horrifying experience is fascinatingly good at making it easy to connect to the emotion, the violation, of the circumstances.
      (2 votes)
  • aqualine tree style avatar for user Clara
    Dose Applo have a twin sister?
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  • blobby green style avatar for user jonessa
    How does Bernini use marble to look like another texture? How does he make a material that looks hard and inflexible look incredible?
    (1 vote)
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  • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
    somewhat technical, and perhaps off the point of the art, but the delicate carving of the hair of the women in both this and the Pluto and Prosperina statues leads me to ask why it hasn't broken off over the centuries since the carving. Marble is strong, yes, but it also cracks easily. Does anything account for the good state of preservation of these statues, or have they been restored?
    (1 vote)
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  • winston baby style avatar for user phoeungmarisa
    If u are Aphrodite would u take the love away from Apollo to help Daphne from the love run? OR would u choose to put a spell on Daphne so that Daphne could love your relative?
    (0 votes)
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Video transcript

(upbeat piano music) - [Man] We're in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. And we're looking at one of Bernini's first major commissions, Apollo and Daphne. - [Woman] This is a fabulous story of Eros, the god of love causing quite a bit of mischief. - [Man] People may know Eros as Cupid. - [Woman] And what happens is Apollo, the god of music and poetry insults Eros and Eros takes his revenge. - [Man] Eros 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 pierces Daphne with an arrow of lead, which makes her repulsed by Apollo. - [Woman] Now Daphne, we should say, has dedicated her life to being a virgin, to remaining unmarried, this was very important to her. - [Man] And so she flees Apollo's advances. - [Woman] 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. - [Man] Daphne has beseeched 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. - [Woman] 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 hurt fingers turning into branches and leaves. Her toes forming into roots. - [Man] 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, what a perfect subject for Bernini, who transforms this rock of marble into something that looks as if it's in motion and it's living flesh. - [Woman] Typical for Baroque art, this caught moment in time, figures in motion. Apollo on one leg, the other leg behind him. The drapery flowing up behind him in mid air. Daphne's hair also pushing back. We feel them moving through space, we feel the atmosphere around them. - [Man] We forget that this is marble, an unforgiving stone that is brittle and heavy. - [Woman] Well, especially those laurel leaves that grow 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. - [Man] 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. - [Woman] Or 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, we're interested in instability. - [Man] We see arcs, we see the arcs of the body, the arcs of the arm, the arcs of the drapery. - [Woman] 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. - [Man] But it's important to note that this 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. - [Woman] And also to the side is a lovely view. And what's especially interesting to me, it is the difference in the expressions between Daphne and Apollo. - [Man] 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. - [Woman] Although it seems to me 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. - [Man] 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. - [Woman] 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. - [Man] But Apollo will continue to love her. And in fact, Ovid writes, - [Woman] 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 victors in the long procession, "wear laurel wreaths for triumph and ovation. "Beside Augustus' portals, let the laurel "guard and watch over the oak "and as my head is always youthful, "let the laurels always be green and shining." He said no more. The laurel, stirring, seemed to consent, to be saying, yes. (upbeat piano music)