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Apollo slaying Coronis
Domenichino and assistants
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The Greek sun god Apollo tumbles from the sky to shoot his unfaithful lover, Coronis. This is one of ten frescoes which originally adorned the walls of a room in a garden pavilion in the grounds of the Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati, near Rome. Many of the stories, including this one, were taken from the Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Eight of them were transferred to canvas and are now in our collection.

The iconography was designed both to glorify the Aldobrandini family and to express their philosophical and religious ideas. Apollo was not just the god of the sun, music, poetry and art, but by extension the light of reason, and the frescoes express the triumph of reason.

Although Domenichino’s preparatory drawings for this scene survive, by the time work began on the fresco he was busy with other projects, and much of the actual painting was left to assistants.

Key facts
Artist Domenichino and assistants
Artist dates 1581 - 1641
Full title Apollo slaying Coronis
Group Villa Aldobrandini Frescoes
Date made 1616-18
Medium and support Fresco, transferred to canvas and mounted on board
Dimensions 199.4 x 89.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1958
Inventory number NG6284
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Villa Aldobrandini Frescoes

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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.

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