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Apollo e Daphne

Unknown, Florentine area

17th century
red chalk on paper

inscription on the reverse (19th century), and on the verso of the backing sheet (modern age)

The drawing, executed in sanguine, focuses on the most pathos-filled scene of the myth of Apollo and Daphne, recounted by Ovid in the Metamorphoses (I, 452-567). In the antecedent, Apollo, who was pierced by a golden arrow thrown by Cupid, falls madly in love with the beautiful nymph Daphne, but she rejects him, remaining devoted to goddess Diana. Ovid first describes Apollo's flattery and then, after Daphne's rejection, the desperate pursuit between the two “like when a Gaulish dog spots a hare in an open field, and they sprint, one to catch and the other to save its life”. This is exactly the moment that is depicted: Apollo looms behind the fugitive, who, having exhausted all her forces, implores the currents of Peneus, her father, to annihilate “by changing them, these features of mine for which I was too pleasing”. And while Daphne is still imploring her father - as emphasised by her posture with arms and gaze turned towards the sky - she begins her metamorphosis into a laurel plant, here described as the transformation of her hands into trunks, while Apollo, who still hasn’t reached her, is watching helplessly as he loses his beloved.

Even though the work is signed by Giovanni Mannozzi - also known as Giovanni da San Giovanni - on both verso and reverse, critics have expressed doubts, preferring to attribute the drawing to the hand of an unknown 17th-century author, probably from the Florentine area, due to the lightness of the stroke used for the characters and the landscape. The sheet came to the Uffizi as part of a nucleus of around one hundred drawings and etchings donated by Carlo Pineider to the Uffizi Prints and Drawings Department in March 2020.

Text by
Chiara Toti
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