POUSSIN, Nicolas
(b. 1594, Les Andelys, d. 1665, Roma)

Apollo and Daphne

Oil on canvas, 97 x 131 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Two pictures that are very much more Venetian in their inspiration are the Munich Apollo and Daphne and the Louvre Triumph of Flora, whose subjects are taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Throughout his career Poussin liked to dwell on themes of transformation, especially those found in stories from classical antiquity. Apollo pursues Daphne, and to escape his clutches she is transformed into a laurel tree. The theme has a poetic melancholy, and this melancholy is also present to a certain extent in the much more cheerful Flora.

The mythological story of Apollo and Daphne is the following.

The nymph Daphne, the daughter of the river god Peneus, was the first and most celebrated of Apollo's loves, and was popular with artists in all ages. According to Ovid, Cupid, in a spiteful mood, was the cause. He struck Apollo with a golden arrow, the sort that kindles love, Daphne with a leaden one that puts love to flight. The god pursued the unwilling girl, and, when she had no more strength to flee, she prayed to her father to save her. Whereupon branches sprouted from her arms, roots grew from her feet, and she was changed into a laurel tree.

The theme symbolizes the victory of Chastity over Love.