Month of Art: Day 6 Apollo and Daphne, 1622-25



Here is my first sculpture entry. Gian Lorenzo Bernini , the most prominent sculptor of the Baroque period, was born 1598 in Naples, Italy and was the creator of the Baroque sculpture style. Like Michelangelo, he also dabbled not only in sculpture but painting, architecture, play writing and metal work. Of course, he is known in the artistic world best for his immense talent in sculpture.

Sculpture is definitely a different experience in person than on a computer screen or book page. I could show you picture after picture but it would not be the same. When I went to Rome two summers ago I had the dear experience of going through the Bourgeois with a large group of music majors. To be frank, none of them knew who Bernini was but when they saw his sculptures they loved him. Several even bought art books on him. As for myself, I almost fainted after seeing his David and stared at Apollo and Daphne and The Rape of  Persephone twenty minutes each. I had seen his sculptures before in my history classes but that was nothing like viewing them in person.

Baroque sculpture turned away from the relaxed positions of the Renaissance in order to showcase deep emotionalism. To put it simply, the figures used in Baroque sculpture were caught in motion, more often than not in moments of passionate fear, intensity or sadness.

This sculpture is based on Ovid‘s story on Phoebus (Apollo) and Daphne. In it, Apollo falls in love with Daphne the daughter of Peneus immediately. Unfortunately, Daphne had sworn off love and men so when he chases after her she pleads for her father to save her from such a fate by any means necessary. In response, Peneus changes her into a tree and Apollo makes her tree his symbol since she could not be his wife. Huzzah! A Greek drama in a nutshell.


Now. . . why did I choose this sculpture? Firstly, I love Bernini’s attention to the small details. For example, he took the time to personalize each leaf sprouting from Daphne’s hands, the details of the cloth and also the special twists in her and Apollus’s bodies. Sculptures are different from canvas art because they have to envisioned as 3D models. Michelangelo stated on more then one occasion that a sculptor must first see the figure trapped inside the marble or stone in his mind then feel them out with his hands. Bernini could not afford to make mistakes. Can you imagine if he accidentally chipped off a finger or leaf?  Also, the details in each of their facial features from their eyes, mouths and even their teeth was absolutely sensational.

Secondly, I love how he shaped Daphne and Apollo’s hair. It curves so delicately and seems to be trapped in extended space. When I saw it in person, it seemed as though the wind had caught Apollo’s hair back as he finally reached Daphne’s changing form. For Daphne, it seemed like Bernini captured her just as twisted her head as her hair swung in the air. Oh! I could not get over it when I saw it in person.


Lastly, I love Bernini’s ability to create real people. His knowledge of the human body was absolutely incredible. Their bodies looked so real. It almost seemed as though two people were frozen in time. To truly understand and experience the wonder of this sculpture, I am afraid to say it must be in person. For myself, I simply wanted to give you at least a glimpse into the amazing works of Bernini.


1 Comment

  1. Ron says:

    “In the heroical times, when lov’d each god and each goddess,
    Longing attended on sight; then with fruition was bless’d…”

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