Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne: Unrequited Love

Apollo and Daphne is a life-sized baroque sculpture by renowned sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. An extraordinary masterwork, the sculpture depicts the mythical story of unrequited love and can be found in Galleria Borghese in Rome. The Galleria Borghese is also home to Bernini’s David, paintings by Caravaggio and many other masterpieces. It is no surprise the Galleria is one of the most popular museums in Rome. Enjoy the myth of Apollo and Daphne as well as our tips for getting Galleria Borghese tickets in advance of your trip to Rome.

The Story of Apollo and Daphne

Apollo, the god of light, one the most influential divine beings and an extraordinary warrior, ridiculed the god of affection, Eros, for his use of a bow and arrow. “What are you doing with warriors’ weapons? Leave them for hands deserving of them. Be content with your torch, kid, and kindle up your fires, as you call them, where you will. Do not presume to meddle with my armaments.” (paraphrased from Ovid, Metamorphoses)

The offended Eros took two arrows, one of lead and one of gold. With the leaden shaft, to instigate hatred, he shot the nymph Daphne. With the golden one, to promote love, he shot Apollo through the heart. Apollo was seized with affection for the beautiful Daphne, and thanks to the lead arrow, she despised him. Actually, she spurned her numerous potential beaus, inclining toward investigating the forested areas. Her father, Peneus, requested that she marry so that she may provide for him grandchildren and she pleaded with her father to allow her to stay unmarried.

Apollo followed her ceaselessly, imploring her to stay with him, but she fled. They were equally matched in the race until Eros intervened and helped Apollo gain up upon Daphne.


Seeing that Apollo was certain to catch her, she called upon her father, “Help me, Peneus! Open the earth to protect me, or reshape my form, which has brought me into this peril! Let me be free of this man from this moment forward!”

Peneus answered her frightened plea and cast upon her a charm of extraordinary force: her skin transformed into bark, her hair turned into leaves, and her arms were changed into branches that shrank from  Apollo’s grasp. She quit running as her feet became rooted to the earth. Since Apollo could no more take her as his wife, he promised to tend her as his tree, to drive away all beasts and animals of the earth that attempted to do her damage. He guaranteed that her leaves would decorate the heads of leaders as crowns, and that her leaves would be portrayed on weapons. Apollo used his powers of eternal youth to render her ever green. From that point forward, the leaves of the bay laurel tree have never known rot.

Advance Tickets for Galleria Borghese Required

The Galleria Borghese is well known and popular destination for tourists in Rome. It is a good idea to purchase tickets well in advance of your trip, even a month ahead. Here is the site:

One Response to “Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne: Unrequited Love”

  1. Mike says:

    This is my favorite sculpture! And the story is a classic!

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