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Oil painting - Apollo and Daphne
  • Apollo and Daphne
    Maratti, Carlo, born 1625 - died 1713
  • Enlarge image

Apollo and Daphne

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Date:

    late 17th century (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Maratti, Carlo, born 1625 - died 1713

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John Jones

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 6, The Lisa and Bernard Selz Gallery, case WE

Carlo Maratti or Maratta (1625-1713) was the pupil of Andrea Sacchi in Rome in 1637 and with whom he stayed until Sacchi's death in 1661. I became the leader painter in Rome receiving commissions from the most eminent family such as the Barberini, Chigi, Spada, Rospigliosi, Pallavicini and Altieri. He executed mainly history paintings in a grandiose and decorative style but also produced a series of portraits. He may have fallen ill at the end of his life, which would explain the diminution of his output. He was buried in the church of Santa Naria degli Angeli in Rome and his funeral was attended by all the members of the Accademia and of the Comapgnia dei Virtuosi del Pantheon.

The present painting belongs most likely to the circle of the Roman painter Carla Maratta. It shows a popular mythological subject at that time: the ancient story of Apollo and Daphne. Apollo, struck by Cupid's arrow fell in love with the nymph Daphne and pursued her but she asked for help and was eventually changed into a laurel tree. The painting shows the moment when Apollo is about to reach Daphne who is simultaneously changed into a tree.

Physical description

In a landscape under a large atmospheric sky is a couple captured mid stride, Apollo in the middle hold his traditional attribute, a lyre, while Daphne, on the left, has her arms upraised and sprouting; another figure of the far left corner is seen from the back in the shadow, leaning against an overturned urn while two putti in the sky are aiming with an arrow and bow and pointing at the couple above them.


late 17th century (painted)


Maratti, Carlo, born 1625 - died 1713

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas


Height: 49.5 cm approx., Width: 64.5 cm approx.

Object history note

Bequeathed by John Jones, 1882
Ref : Parkinson, Ronald, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860. Victoria & Albert Museum, HMSO, London, 1990. p.xix-xx

John Jones (1800-1882) was first in business as a tailor and army clothier in London 1825, and opened a branch in Dublin 1840. Often visited Ireland, travelled to Europe and particularly France. He retired in 1850, but retained an interest in his firm. Lived quietly at 95 Piccadilly from 1865 to his death in January 1882. After the Marquess of Hertford and his son Sir Richard Wallace, Jones was the principal collector in Britain of French 18th century fine and decorative arts. Jones bequeathed an important collection of French 18th century furniture and porcelain to the V&A, and among the British watercolours and oil paintings he bequeathed to the V&A are subjects which reflect his interest in France.

See also South Kensington Museum Art Handbooks. The Jones Collection. With Portrait and Woodcuts. Published for the Committee of Council on Education by Chapman and Hall, Limited, 11, Henrietta Street. 1884.
Chapter I. Mr. John Jones. pp.1-7.
Chapter II. No.95, Piccadilly. pp.8-44. This gives a room-by-room guide to the contents of John Jones' house at No.95, Piccadilly.
Chapter VI. ..... Pictures,... and other things, p.138, "The pictures which are included in the Jones bequest are, with scarcely a single exception, valuable and good; and many of them excellent works of the artists. Mr. Jones was well pleased if he could collect enough pictures to ornament the walls of his rooms, and which would do no discredit to the extraordinary furniture and other things with which his house was filled."

Historical significance: This painting which attribution has been long discussed represents a popular mythological episode narrated by the Ancient Roman author Ovid in the Metamorphoses (1:452 ff). According to Ovid, Apollo, the Sun god, was stricken by Cupid, the god of Love, with a golden arrow and immediately fell in love with the nymph Daphne, daughter of the river God Peneus. When, too tired to flee, Daphne asked her father for help, she was turned into a tree. She is here traditionally represented fleeing from Apollo, her arms upraised and already sprouting while Cupid up in the sky along with a little putto is pointing his bow and arrow towards the couple. Peneus, the river God, is seen from the back in the shadow on the lower left corner reclining on his overturned urn.
The painting most likely belongs to the Roman circle of the end of the 17th century and shows the influence of the leading painter in Rome at that time, Carlo Maratta, whose art, inspired by the great masters of the late century, including Raphael and Annibale Carracci, unites the virtue of disegno and colore and anticipates somehow the development of the Rococo and Neo-classicism. This composition may indeed derive from Maratta's Apollo and Daphne, dated 1681, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, which represented in a much brighter, pastel-like palette the exact same moment in the story of Apollo and Daphne executed with a neat and delicate brushwork, which is also an essential characteristic of this painting. Analogously the figures are captured mid stride in an elegant and graceful pose. The colouring is however much darker and the large atmospheric sky bathing this compositions into a delicate chiaroscuro significantly differs from Maratta's tonality but is reminiscent of Nicolas Poussin (Apollo and Daphne, 1625, Alte Pinakothek, Munich).
It is said that Maratta used to challenge his pupils to execute their own version of his composition, which partly explained the many versions of identical subject matter during the Baroque period. For instance, Francesco Trevisani (1656-1746), one of Maratta's famous pupils, depicted the same scene based on a very similar compositional idea (The Hermitage, St Petersburg).

Historical context note

History painting, i.e. depictions of non recurring events based on religious, classical, literary or allegorical sources, particularly developed in Italy during the Renaissance (15th-16th centuries). History painting could include religious themes, or depictions of momentous recent events, but the term was most frequently associated with Classical subject-matter. However a renewed impetus was given to religious subjects after the Council of Trent (1545-63), which stipulated new iconographical programmes. The development of art treatises, in which the compositional rules guiding the art of painting were discussed also notably, influenced the evolution of history painting. From around 1600 history painting's principal rivals: still-life, landscape and genre painting began to emerge as independent collectable genres. Furthermore, the Rococo taste for the ornamental in the early 18th century prioritised the decorative quality of history painting, so that subject matters became more entertaining than exemplary. There was a renewed interest in history painting during the Neo-Classical period after which the taste for such pictures faded towards the end of the 19th century when an innovative approach to the image was led by the Symbolists and was developed further by subsequent schools in the early 20th century.

Descriptive line

Oil Painting, 'Apollo and Daphne', Circle of Carlo Maratti, late 17th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, pp. 155-6, cat. no. 188.


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted





Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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