This piece is one of my favourite sculptures in existence. I visited the Galleria Borghese on this occasion especially to see this piece again.
I had last seen it here ten years ago. I remember thinking at the time and ever since ‘this is the only reason I like Bernini – and I love him for this reason’. So when I wondered through his pieces once more, at a time when the Galleria Borghese was holding a Bernini exhibition, I really started to feel more strongly than ever before that my overwhelming love for Apollo and Daphne really made no sense – because I really don’t like any other piece by Bernini. I can appreciate elements sure, but he doesn’t really make me tick. In general terms I find his work crude. And so my confusion led to curiosity and I researched the piece – and all was revealed.
This piece is extremely unfairly attributed to Bernini in the Galleria Borghese, which is incorrect. This piece was a collaborative creation by two artists, one was Bernini, and the other was a less known sculptor by the name of Guiliano Finelli. Would it be fair to attribute a Beatles song to only John Lennon? Sometimes the best art is created as a result of synergy and I believe that is what we see before us when we look at Apollo and Daphne. The human forms are mostly by Bernini and the magical transformation into a tree is all by Finelli. Therefore just as the subject matter speaks of two states, the hands of two sculptors came together to create this truly spectacular marvel of a sculpture. Neither artist created another piece independently as strong as this collaborative piece. Although between the two men, I unequivocally believe that Finelli was the superior sculptor. He had an ability to capture the fragility of human nature through his incredible sensitivity in capturing the personality of his subjects. He also had an unparalleled skill in rendering textures and details which is beyond remarkable.
As for The Apollo and Daphne, it is a wonder that can never be fully soaked up, and you cannot escape its captivation, I become completely engrossed when I am in that room, I am spellbound.
Works by Giuliano Finelli (1601–1653)
Apollo and Daphne (1622–1625)