Galleria Borghese logo
Search results for
No results :(

Hints for your search:

  • Search engine results update instantly as soon as you change your search key.
  • If you have entered more than one word, try to simplify the search by writing only one, later you can add other words to filter the results.
  • Omit words with less than 3 characters, as well as common words like "the", "of", "from", as they will not be included in the search.
  • You don't need to enter accents or capitalization.
  • The search for words, even if partially written, will also include the different variants existing in the database.
  • If your search yields no results, try typing just the first few characters of a word to see if it exists in the database.

Apollo and Daphne

Bernini Gian Lorenzo

(Naples 1598 - Rome 1680)

Apollo here is depicted in the act of running, with his right foot touching the ground and his left raised; the garment which covers his sides and left shoulder accompanies his movement. Having attained the goal of his chase, he places his left hand on Daphne’s body. At the god’s touch, the nymph immediately gives up her flight and with her raised arms and face attempts to turn around; yet her feet have already become roots and her hands and hair have been transformed into laurel branches and leaves.

The subject of the sculpture group is the tale told by Ovid in the Metamorphoses: taking vengeance on Apollo, Cupid strikes him with a golden arrow that causes him to fall in love with the nymph Daphne, a follower of Diana. At the same time, Cupid shoots a dart of lead at the maiden, inducing her to reject the love of the god. Daphne begs her father Peneus, a river god, to change her appearance. The sculpture captures the culminating moment of her metamorphosis into a laurel tree. Bernini gives the subject the air of a theatrical performance, allowing the viewer to follow the transformation.

The sculpture was originally placed on one side of the room adjacent to the chapel, where it rested on a lower pedestal than the current one: this arrangement increased the scenographic effect of the work and hence the emotional involvement of the observer.

Object details

Carrara marble
height 243 cm

Cardinal Scipione Borghese, 1625 (Minozzi 1998, pp. 437-40, docs. 61-78); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C, p. 47, no. 85; purchased by Italian state, 1902.

  • 1998 Roma, Galleria Borghese
  • 2017-2018 Roma, Galleria Borghese
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903 C. Fossi
  • 1954 E. Pedrazzoni
  • 1971 S. Giammei
  • 1996/ 1998 ICR


The subject of the sculpture group comes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (I, 450-567): taking vengeance on Apollo, Cupid strikes him with an arrow of gold – the noblest of metals – which causes him to fall in love with the nymph Daphne, a follower of Diana. At the same time, Cupid shoots a dart of lead at her, inducing her to reject the love of the god. Daphne begs her father Peneus, a river god, to change her appearance, the cause of so much passion.

The sculpture captures the culminating moment of the maiden’s metamorphosis into a laurel tree. Bernini gives the subject the air of a theatrical performance, allowing the viewer to follow the transformation: having finally attained the goal of his chase, who is already undergoing the transformation of her feet into roots and her hands and hair into laurel branches and leaves. Apollo tries to grasp her, but his fingers find the bark of the tree rather than her body. From that moment, the tree became dear to the god, who wore a crown of its leaves around his head; the laurel wreath would in fact be considered an attribute of artists and poets.

Documentation that has come down to us allows us to follow all the phases of the execution of the sculpture group, beginning with the purchase of the marble block on 2 August 1622: various instalments were then paid to the sculptor beginning in 1624; in March 1625, a payment was made to Agostino Radi for the base; in August of the same year, the work was finally brought to completion; and Bernini received the last payment on 24 November 1625. In all, the sculptor was paid 1,000 scudi for his efforts (Minozzi 1998, pp. 437-40, docs. 61-78). The documents indicate an interruption in the work for nearly a year, during which the sculptor turned his attention to the creation of the David (inv. no. LXXVII), likewise commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese.

Together with other sources, these documents also inform us the work was placed in Room 3, as Bernini had wished: the sculpture was meant to occupy a position in front of the wall that bordered the chapel and the spiral staircase. Here it would focus the observer’s attention on Apollo’s right side and enable her to follow the final phase of the god’s chase, the moment in which his initial conviction of having triumphed is changed into an expression of amazement on his face, as he observed Daphne’s metamorphosis. Thus did Bernini manage to capture an instant in marble which is both narration and emotional experience.

The group further demonstrates the sculptor’s extraordinary technical skill: his ability to carve fingers and toes that are being transformed into leaves and roots and hair that flows backwards; the delicate chiselling of the bark of the tree; and the various degrees of finishing to differentiate the surfaces of the garments from those of the skin of the two protagonists. His sagacious use of the traditional tools of the sculptor’s trade allowed him to render the tale in marble, a subject whose representation was hitherto believed to be possible only through the paintbrush. Analyses conducted on the occasion of restoration work in 1997 revealed that Bernini provisionally wrapped the thinnest and most delicate parts of the work in plaster ‘cushions’ to protect them from vibrations caused by successive stages of the project (Zatti, in Bernini scultore, 2002, p. 202).

In light of the astounding level of detail shown by the work, some scholars have suggested the participation of Giuliano Finelli, one of Bernini’s talented collaborators. While Finelli’s involvement is mentioned by Passeri, in the wake of careful examination of the sculpture modern scholars tend to exclude the possibility of other hands in the project (Minozzi, in Bernini, 2017, p. 178).

As in other works by Bernini, unpolished areas of the sculpted surfaces are evident here, which can be explained by the fact that the sculptor did not believe that they would be viewable, given the group’s intended placement. Yet at the end of the 18th century the family’s collections were rearranged and the rooms redecorated, in the context of the project ordered by Marcantonio IV Borghese. On this occasion, the Apollo and Daphne was moved to the centre of the room, together with the most important ancient statues of the family collection. While on the one hand its inclusion among this prestigious set of works attests to the esteem in which it was held – it was the only representative of modern sculpture – on the other hand the repositioning meant the loss of the privileged location that Bernini had envisioned. Indeed, in accordance with Vincenzo Pacetti’s recommendation (1785), the work was again moved to the position it still has today (in the past, viewers entering the room from the Chapel first saw the group from the back). Yet this arrangement necessitated another title block, to be placed on the side of the base that viewers would first see. This was realised by Lorenzo Cardelli in the form of an eagle with verses taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The title block was meant to serve as the pendant of the original one, in the form of a dragon skin, which was placed on the base at the time of the work’s execution; it was inscribed with the couplet composed by Cardinal Maffeo Barberini: Quisquis amans sequitur fugitivae gaudia formae / formae manus implet baccas seu carpita amaras. The intention of the inscription was to stimulate moral reflection on the part of the viewer. Indeed as early as the late 15th century, Daphne symbolised virtue which flees from hidden dangers and remains pure and evergreen, like the laurel (Coliva, in Bernini scultore, 1998, p. 263).

In addition, the themes of Apollo and the laurel were intended to celebrate the cardinal and the construction of Villa Pinciana, a locus of art and pleasure. For the figure of Apollo Bernini in fact drew inspiration from one of the most famous ancient sculptures in the world, namely the Apollo Belvedere, which he reproduced with philological precision down to the god’s sandals (Coliva in Bernini scultore, 1998, pp. 261, 274 nos. 13, 14).

Bernini also drew on another well-known iconographic model: the detail of the Acis in flight in Annibale Carracci’s fresco Polyphemus, Acis and Galatea in Palazzo Farnese. Daphne’s face, meanwhile, shows the influence of the fleeing mother in the Massacre of the Innocents by Guido Reni, Scipione Borghese’s favourite painter. Critics have further noted similarities with Reni’s Atalanta and Hippomenes, painted for Ferdinando Gonzaga. Both works follow a similar rhythm: while one centres on separation, the other foregrounds reunion, giving rise to an allegorical representation of movement (Coliva, in Bernini scultore, 1998, pp. 272-273; Coliva 2017, pp. 140-144).

  • I. Manilli, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana, Roma 1650, p. 70.
  • F. Martinelli, Roma ricercata nel suo sito, e nella scuola di tutti gli Antiquarii, Venezia 1664, p. 110.
  • G. A. Borboni, Delle statue, Roma 1661, p. 82.
  • P. Fréart de Chantelou, Journal de voyage du cavalier Bernin en France, Parigi 1665, ed. it. a cura di D. Del Pesco, Napoli 2007, p. 304 (23 agosto).
  • G. M. Silos, Pinacotheca sive Romana Pictvra et Scvlptvra, Roma 1673, p. 248.
  • J. von Sandrarts, Academie der Bau-, Bild und Mahlerey - Künste von 1675. Leben der berühmten Maler, Bildhauer und Baumeister, a cura di A. R. Peltzer, München 1925, p. 285.
  • P. Cureau De la Chambre, Préface pour servir à l’histoire de la vie et des ouvrages du Cavalier Bernini, Paris 1681, p. 20 ss.
  • F. Baldinucci, Vita Del Cavaliere Gio. Lorenzo Bernino Scultore, Architetto, e Pittore, Firenze 1682, p. 9.
  • P. de’ Sebastiani, Viaggio curioso de’ palazzi e ville più notabili di Roma, Roma 1683, p. 38 ss.
  • D. Montelatici, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana con l’ornamenti che si osservano nel di lei Palazzo, Roma 1700, pp. 239-242.
  • P. Rossini, Il Mercurio errante delle grandezze di Roma, tanto antiche, che moderne, Roma 1700, p. 99.
  • P. A. Maffei, Raccolta di statue antiche e moderne, Roma 1704, col. 73, tav. LXXXI.
  • D. Bernini, Vita del Cavalier Gio. Lorenzo Bernino, Roma 1713, p. 18.
  • G.P. Pinaroli, Trattato delle cose più memorabili di Roma tanto antiche come moderne, che in essa di presente si trovano, Roma 1725, III, p. 78.
  • G. Roisecco, Roma antica e moderna, Roma 1750, II, p. 231 ss.
  • J. J. Lalande, Voyage d’un François en Italie, Paris 1769, IV, pp. 472-474.
  • L. Lamberti, E.Q. Visconti, Sculture del palazzo della Villa Borghese detta Pinciana, II, Roma 1796, p. 13 ss.
  • A. Nibby, Monumenti scelti della Villa Borghese, Roma 1832, p. 82 ss.
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno MDCCCXXXVIII. Parte seconda moderna, Roma 1841, IV, p. 925.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 29 ss.
  • S. Fraschetti, Il Bernini: la sua vita, la sua opera, il suo tempo, Milano 1900, p. 26, n. 1.
  • M. S. Briggs, The genius of Bernini, in “The Burlington Magazine”, 26, 1914/15, pp. 223-228.
  • W. Stechow, Apollo und Daphne, Leipzig 1932.
  • A. de Rinaldis A., Il luminismo del Bernini, in “Primato”, 1942, III, l° maggio, pp. 185-186.
  • I. Faldi, Note sulle sculture Borghesiane del Bernini, in "Bollettino d’Arte", 1953, p. 144.
  • I. Faldi, Galleria Borghese. Le sculture dal sec. XVI al XIX, Roma 1954, pp. 34-37, cat. 35.
  • R. Wittkower, Gian Lorenzo Bernini: the sculptor of the Roman baroque, London 1955, pp. 183-184, n. 18.
  • H. Hibbard, Nuove note sul Bernini, in “Bollettino d’Arte”, 1958, pp. 181-183.
  • Gianlorenzo Bernini, a cura di L. Grassi, F. Pansecchi, G. Falcidia, Roma 1962, pp. 78-82.
  • R. Wittkower, The role of Classical Models in Bernini’s and Poussin’s preparatory work, in Latin American art, and the Baroque period in Europe, Princeton-New York 1963, III, pp. 41-50.
  • H. Hibbard, Bernini, Harmondsworth 1965, pp. 48-53.
  • R. Wittkower, Art and Architecture in Italy, 1600-1750, Harmondsworth 19652, pp. 97-103.
  • R. Kuhn, Die Entstehung des Bernini’schen Heiligenbildes: Dissertation über die Auffassung, den Stil und die Komposition der Skulpturen von 1621 bis in die fünfziger Jahre, München 1966, pp. 23-127.
  • R. Wittkower, Gian Lorenzo Bernini: The Sculptor of the Roman Baroque, London 1966, pp. 183-184, n. 18.
  • C. D’Onofrio, Roma vista da Roma, 1967, p. 303 e ss.
  • Bernini. Una introduzione al gran teatro del barocco, a cura di M. Fagiolo dell’Arco, M. Fagiolo, Roma 1967, pp. 31, 52 ss., cat. 23.
  • I. Lavin, Five New Youthful Sculptures by Gianlorenzo Bernini and a Revised chronology of his Early Works, in “The Art Bulletin”, 1968, 50, p. 235.
  • C. Brandi, L’attività giovanile di Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Roma 1968-1969, pp. 50-61.
  • H. Kauffmann, Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini. Die figürlichen Kompositionen, Berlin 1970, pp. 59-77.
  • R. Wittkower, Art and Architecture in Italy 1600-1750, Harmondsworth 1973, pp. 93-107.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1974, p. 12 ss.
  • V. Mariani, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Napoli 1974, pp. 23-24.
  • R. Preimesberger, Pignus Imperii. Ein Beitrag zu Berninis Aeneasgruppe, in Festschrift Wolfgang Braunfels, a cura di F. Piel, J. Träger, Tübingen 1977, p. 135 ss.
  • I. Lavin, Bernini and the Unity of the Visual Arts, New York 1980; trad. it. Roma 1980, p. 19.
  • J. Kenseth, Bernini’s Borghese Sculptures: another View, in “The Art Bulletin”, 63, 1981, pp. 191-210.
  • C. Gasparri, Bernini e l’antico. Una proposta per l’Apollo e Dafne, in “Prospettiva”, 1983-1984, 33-36, pp. 226-230.
  • J. Montagu, Bernini Sculptures not by Bernini, in Gian Lorenzo Bernini. New Aspects of his Art and Thougth, a cura di I. Lavin, London 1985, pp. 25-43.
  • R. Preimesberger, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. New Aspects of his Art and Thought Themes from Art Theory in the early Work of Bernini, London 1985, p. 9 ss.
  • L. Franciosi, Immagini e poesia alla corte di Urbano VIII, in Gian Lorenzo Bernini e le arti visive, a cura di M. Fagiolo, Roma 1987, pp. 85-90.
  • M. Fumaroli, Une peinture de méditation: à propos de l’Hippomène et Atalante du Guide, in "Il se rendit en Italie", Etudes offert à André Chastel, Roma 1987, pp. 337-358.
  • I. Lavin, Bernini and the Antiquity. The Baroque Paradox. A Poetical View, in Beck H., Schulze S. (a cura di), Antikenrezeption in Hochbarock, Berlin 1989, pp. 15-21.
  • R. Preimesberger, Zu Bernini Borghese-Sculpturen, in Antikenrezeption in Hochbarock, a cura di Herbert Beck, Sabine Schulze, Berlin 1989, pp. 109-127.
  • R. Wittkower, Gian Lorenzo Bernini: The Sculptor of the Roman Baroque, 2a ed. riveduta e ampliata, London 1966, trad. it. Milano 1990, pp. 13-15, cat. 18.
  • O. Ferrari, Bernini, in “Art Dossier”, n. 57, 1991, pp. 13-19.
  • J. Montagu, Roman baroque sculpture: the industry of art, New Haven 1989, trad. it. Torino 1991, pp. 104, 163.
  • C.s Scribner, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, New York 1991, p. 64.
  • R. Kuhn, Gianlorenzo Bernini. Gesammelte Beiträge zur Auslegung seiner Skulpturen, Frankfurt am Main 1993, pp. 79-80, 110 ss.
  • S. Schulze, Zwischen Innovation und Tradition: Berninis Apoll und Daphne, in “Städel-Jahrbuch”, N.S. XIV, 1993 (1994), pp. 231-250.
  • M. Calvesi, in Galleria Borghese, a cura di A. Coliva, Roma 1994, pp. 294-297.
  • Galleria Borghese, a cura di Anna Coliva, Roma 1994, p. 214.
  • S. Schütze, “Urbano innalza Pietro, e Pietro Urbano”. Beobachtungen zu Idee und Gestalt der Ausstattung von Neu-St.-Peter unter Urban VIII, in “Römisches Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte”, XXIX, 1994, pp. 231-250.
  • C. Scribner, Gianlorenzo Bernini, New York 1994, p. 64.
  • K. Kalveram., Die Antikensammlung des Kardinals Scipione Borghese, Worms am Rhein 1995, p. 174 ss., 180, 397.
  • A. Aldrovandi, M. Matteini, A. Moles, U. Santamaria, G. Vigliano, Indagini scientifiche per lo studio delle superfici marmoree dell’’Apollo e Dafne’ di Gian Lorenzo Bernini, in “OPD Restauro”, 1996, n. 8, pp. 30-47.
  • V. von Flemming, Arma amoris: Sprachbild und Bildsprache der Liebe; Kardinal Scipione Borghese und die Gemäldezyklen Francesco Albanis, Mainz 1996, p. 174 ss, 180, 397.
  • A. Negro, Il giardino dipinto del Cardinal Borghese: Paolo Bril e Guido Reni nel Palazzo Rospigliosi Pallavicini a Roma, Roma 1996, p. 119 ss.
  • La scultura del Seicento a Roma, a cura di Andrea Bacchi, Milano 1996, p. 778.
  • C. Avery, Bernini: genius of the Baroque, London 1997, pp. 55-56.
  • D. Dombrowski, Giuliano Finelli. Bildhauer zwischen Neapel und Rom, Frankfurt am Main 1997, pp. 27-29, 300, n. B14.
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Apollo e Dafne del Bernini nella Galleria Borghese, Cinisello Balsamo 1997.
  • B. Schmitt, Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini Figur und Raum, Frensdorf 1997, pp. 122-133.
  • A. Coliva, Apollo e Dafne di Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Milano 1998.
  • A. Coliva, in Bernini scultore. La nascita del Barocco in casa Borghese, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Galleria Borghese 1998), a cura di A. Coliva, S. Schütze, Roma 1998, pp. 252-275, cat. 27.
  • M. Minozzi, Appendice documentaria: le opere di Bernini nella collezione di Scipione Borghese, in Bernini scultore. La nascita del Barocco in casa Borghese, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Galleria Borghese 1998), a cura di A. Coliva, S. Schütze, Roma 1998, pp. 423-440, in part. docc. 61-78.
  • M. Winner, in Il Cortile delle Statue. Der Statuenhof des Belvedere im Vatican, atti del convegno, Roma 1992, a cura di M. Winner, B. Andreae, C. Pietrangeli, Mainz 1998, pp. 227­252.
  • Gian Lorenzo Bernini regista del Barocco, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Palazzo Venezia, 1999), a cura di M. G. Bernardini, M. Fagiolo Dell’Arco, Milano 1999.
  • A. Bolland, Desiderio and Diletto: Vision, Touch, and the Poetics of Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne, in “The Art Bulletin”, 82, 2000, 2, pp. 309-330.
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 110, fig. 7.
  • A. T. Wilkins, Bernini and Ovid: Expanding the Concept of Metamorphosis, in “International Journal of the Classical Tradition”, vol. 6, n. 3, 2000, pp. 383-408.
  • M. Ulivi, M. A. Sorrentino, E. Zatti, P. Rockwell, in Bernini scultore: la tecnica esecutiva, a cura di A. Coliva, Roma 2002, pp. 184-207.
  • M. Fagiolo dell’Arco, L’immagine al potere: vita di Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Roma-Bari 2004, pp. 51-52, 78, 116.
  • Bernini dai Borghese ai Barberini: la cultura a Roma intorno agli anni Venti, atti del convegno (Roma, 1999) a cura di Olivier Bonfait, A. Coliva, Roma 2004, pp. 22-24.
  • T. Montanari, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Roma 2004, pp. 88-97.
  • S. Pierguidi, in Bernini e gli allievi. Giuliano Finelli, Andrea Bolgi, Francesco Mochi, François Duquesnoy, Ercole Ferrata, Antonio Raggi, Giuseppe Mazzuoli a cura di A. Bacchi, S. Pierguidi, Firenze 2008, pp. 166, 173.
  • M. Bussagli, La rappresentazione della forza d’inerzia ed altri artifici del Seicento tra scienza e arte, in L’altro Seicento: arte a Roma tra eterodossia, libertinismo e scienza, a cura di D. Frascarelli, Roma 2016, pp. 41-54.
  • T. Montanari, La libertà di Bernini: la sovranità dell’artista e le regole del potere, Torino 2016, pp. 3-47.
  • A. Coliva, L’invenzione della scultura di storia: i gruppi borghesiani, in Bernini, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Galleria Borghese, 2017-2018), a cura di A. Bacchi, A. Coliva, Milano 2017, pp. 133-153.
  • M. Minozzi, in Bernini, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Galleria Borghese, 2017-2018), a cura di A. Bacchi, A. Coliva, Milano 2017, pp. 176-183, cat. V.4.
  • M. Bussagli, Inerzia d’amore, il moto dei capelli nella Dafne di Bernini, in “Art e dossier”, 2018, n. 350, pp. 54-59.
  • M. Fagiolo, Cosa cela la straordinaria tecnica scultorea del Bernini, analisi di due capolavori, in “About art online”, 2018.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/12/01008608; Russo L., 1983; agg. Felici S., 2020.