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Piero del Pollaiuolo, Apollo and Daphne

Key facts
Full title Apollo and Daphne
Artist Piero del Pollaiuolo
Artist dates about 1441 - before 1496
Date made probably 1470-80
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 29.5 × 20 cm
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG928
Location On loan: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, Chimei Museum, Tainan City, Taiwan
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Apollo and Daphne
Piero del Pollaiuolo

This tiny picture has grand themes: the rivalry of the gods and the power and danger of love. Its story comes from the Metamorphoses, by the Roman poet Ovid. Cupid, taking revenge on Apollo for his teasing, struck the god with a golden arrow of love, igniting a fierce desire for Daphne – but struck Daphne with an arrow which caused her to reject him. She fled from him until her father Peneus, the river god, helped her to escape Apollo’s embrace: he transformed her into a laurel tree.

The painting was once thought to be part of a piece of decorated furniture, but it was probably made as an independent painting. The delicacy of the minute details, like the flowers scattered across the hillside and the reflection of the trees in the river, along with the subtle painting of the distant, hazy mountains, suggest it was meant to be admired close up.

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