Ovid’s Metamorphoses provides the background for which inspired this particular sculpture. Apollo is in love with Daphne and Cupid wounds him with a golden arrow, which causes love and wounds Daphne, who has declared herself eternally chaste. Apollo falls in love at first sight and his love grows through his visual senses. He chases Daphne and almost overtakes her when he breathes on her hair. She pleads with her father to make her ugly so that Apollo will stop hunting her. Her father transforms her skin to bark, her hair to leaves, and her arms to branches. Her beauty remains and even in this novel form, Apollo still loves her. This narrative tells about desire and pursuit and is full of references to sense and touch, which Bernini then takes and transforms into poetic art.
Bernini’s sculpture embodies the transformation of Daphne using touch and sight and the metamorphosis he shows is not just physical, but it is also sensual. Daphne turns her head to look back at Apollo as she begins to turn to laurel. Bernini is thus playing with the audience’s senses. Daphne’s facial expression shows her transformation is occurring. She is so afraid of being caught by Apollo, which Bernini remarkably portrays through the stone. Apollo’s mouth opens as she begins her transformation making this sculpture similar to the previous two sculptures in the Borghese group and the idea as it captures the moment. Apollo senses that something is wrong, but Bernini did not show this with his gaze. He still views Daphne in her human form, but he feels roots beneath his feet and the branch which grazes his loins as his left hand reaches towards her skin, which is turning to bark.
The metamorphosis that Bernini shows is not just physical, but it is also very sensual. The way Bernini turns Daphne’s head and the careful detail of the drapery falling off Apollo’s shoulder mimic Chembino Alberti’s engraving after Pollidoro da Carravagio. Berini placed Apollo and Daphne extremely close together in order to provide stability to the sculpture, but it also permits him to put Apollo’s arm completely around her. He puts Apollo’s gaze directly on Daphne’s face, which makes the obvious connections between vision and touch.
The statue is primarily about touch induced by erotic desire which has its basis in both visual and poetic art. Bernini plays with illusion: “what you see is not always what you get,” says Andrea Bolland. The space between Apollo and Daphne cannot necessarily be considered empty. However, the viewer must think of this space as room for the astonishment that is shown through Apollo and Daphne’s open mouths and turned heads.
Bernini maintained his theme of giving his sculptures one central view to see the action, but also used line to force the viewer to move around the sculpture to determine its meaning, sort of like a puzzle. The rear view of the sculpture is the capturing element and causes the viewer to immediately walk around to the front and find out its purpose. The viewer is quick to find Apollo chasing after beautiful Daphne much to her avail, while transformation begins to occur. On the right side, the viewer can see Daphne is in actuality becoming a laurel tree. Her toes have taken root, her flesh has turned to bark, her hair to leaves, and her arms to branches. Apollo notices and Bernini shows him exhibiting a sense of loss on his face.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_and_Daphne http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gian_Lorenzo_Bernini http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galleria_Borghese