Go to main contentGo to footer

Apollo and Daphne

Karel van Mander (Meulebeke 1548 - Amsterdam 1606)

Pen and ink, diluted ink, black chalk on paper
163 x 221 mm
8601 S

Presumably around 1585, this drawing was made by the Flemish painter and writer Karel van Mander along with another one, 'Pan e Siringa' (Pan and Syrinx), which is also preserved at the Uffizi Prints and Drawings Department (inv. 8602 S). The influence of Italian Mannerism, which the artist had discovered during his stay in Rome in 1574/1577 and which he contributed to spread in the Netherlands through the example of his friend Bartholomäus Spranger, is clear. It can be found in some compositional choices - the positioning of the characters at the sides of the scene, the central part of the scene not in the forefront, the views of landscapes on the right to catch the eye - but also in the elegance of the artificially elongated bodies. He faithfully follows the episode of Apollo and Daphne narrated in Ovid's Metamorphoses (I, 452-567), of which the painter himself published a commentary in his Shilderboeck, a collection of biographies of artists that earned him the nickname of Dutch Vasari. The episode is narrated in a three-part sequence: on the left, the antecedent with a cheerful Daphne together with her sisters; in the centre, the climax episode with Apollo who seizes the nymph and pulls her close trying to kiss her, while Daphne, in order to escape from him, turns herself into a laurel tree, transforming her arms into branches and her feet into roots; on the right, Daphne's father, Peneus, together with other river gods, is witnessing the metamorphosis of his daughter, to which he also consents in order to save her from Apollo's ardour. Although the origin of Van Mander's two drawings (usually conceived as preparatory studies for paintings, prints or tapestries) is uncertain, they most likely belonged to a larger cycle that included other episodes from Ovid's Metamorphoses, whose fame spread across the Netherlands at the end of the 16th century also thanks to the artist's contribution.


Text by
Chiara Toti
Interested in visiting The Uffizi?
Arrange your visit to Florence, find prices and opening hours of the museum.

The Newsletter of the Uffizi Galleries

Subscribe to keep up to date!