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Domenichino and assistants, Apollo pursuing Daphne

Key facts
Full title Apollo pursuing Daphne
Artist Domenichino and assistants
Artist dates 1581 - 1641
Series Villa Aldobrandini Frescoes
Date made 1616-18
Medium and support Fresco, transferred to canvas and mounted on board
Dimensions 311.8 × 189.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1958
Inventory number NG6287
Location Room 13
Collection Main Collection
Apollo pursuing Daphne
Domenichino and assistants

The sun god Apollo – identifiable by the golden rays around his head – pursues a young woman whose fingers are sprouting foliage. This is Daphne, a river nymph with whom the god has fallen in love. She rejects his advances and, rather than allowing him to catch her, is turned into a laurel tree.

This is one of ten frescoes which originally adorned the walls of a room known as the Stanza di Apollo in a garden pavilion at the Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati, near Rome. Eight of the frescoes were transferred to canvas and are now in our collection. All show stories of Apollo, mostly taken from the Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Although Domenichino designed the scenes, much of the actual painting seems to have been left to assistants.

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Villa Aldobrandini Frescoes


These large frescoes (now transferred to canvas) once decorated the walls of a spectacular pavilion in one of the great Italian Baroque gardens.

The Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati was rebuilt by Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, nephew of Pope Clement VIII, in the early years of the seventeenth century. Immediately behind the palace, he built a large classical pavilion and decorated it with fountains, statues and paintings. Domenichino’s frescoes – two of which remain in situ – were arranged around a room called the Stanza di Apollo, which also contained a musical fountain representing Mount Parnassus, the mythical home of the Greek sun god Apollo and the Muses. Based on themes drawn from the Greek myths, the iconographical programme glorified the triumph of the Catholic Church, and the role of the Aldobrandini family in it, emphasising the superiority of the intellect over the emotions.

Although Domenichino designed the pictures, much of the actual painting was done by assistants.