The Politics of Religion and Art

A post on Bernini's "Apollo and Daphne" from Galleria Borghese, Rome, Italy.

May 18th is International Museum Day and I share with you one of my favorite sculptures of Galleria Borghese from my trip to Rome, Italy.  Gian Lorenzo Bernini's "Apollo and Daphne"(1622 - 1625) is carved in white marble.  It is inspired by a story from Latin book 1 (out of 15) "Metamorphosis" by Roman poet Ovid (8 AD).  Story has it that Apollo (Roman god of medicine and art) and brother of Diana (the virgin goddess of the hunt) is full of himself having conquered a large snake.  He bullies Cupid (God of love, desire, and affection) about his ability to handle dangerous weapons. In spite, Cupid hits Apollo with a love-inducing arrow and Daphne (a river nymph, worshipper of Diana, and a sworn celibate) with a love-repelling arrow.  Apollo pursues a distraught Daphne and when he finally catches up with her, she prays to her river father Peneus who metamorphoses her into a laurel tree.  Apollo, still in love, kisses her, bestows his gift of endless youth upon her, and makes her a sacred plant.  
So how did such a sensual, Pagan-inspired artwork commission by Cardinal Borghese escape criticism of his Christian contemporaries?  By inserting a couplet of Christian morality in Latin by soon to be Pope Urban VIII (Cardinal Maffeo Barberini) "Those who love to pursue fleeting forms of pleasure, in the end, find only leaves and bitter berries in their hands."   Aaah loopholes! 

Categories: Museum