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Il mito di Apollo e Dafne

Giovanni Angelo Canini (Roma, 1608 – Roma, 1666)

Giovanni Angelo Canini
(Rome, 1608 - Rome, 1666)

Apollo and Daphne

Oil on canvas
84 x 100 cm
Framed 106 x 125 cm.

The work is accompanied by expertise by Prof. Giancarlo Sestieri (Rome)
D23-020 Sold Request information

'' I thank you for having brought this qualitative and interesting mythological scene to my attention (oil on canvas, 84 x 100 cm). It refers to an episode narrated by Ovid in his Metamorphoses, specifically the myth of Apollo and Daphne, one of the most famous unrequited loves in classical mythology, an episode taken from ancient Latin culture, and taken up again from the Renaissance onwards, such a poignant love story with profound symbolic meanings.

Daphne, daughter of the river god Peneus, depicted below on the right, is pursued by Apollo who, struck by a golden arrow from Cupid, hiding with a mocking smile in the bush, falls madly in love with her. We see him here, pervaded by an irrepressible passion, as he tries in vain to catch the girl who, struck by Cupid himself with a lead arrow, will instead be destined to run away and reject Apollo's love.

Exhausted by this continuous flight, Daphne reaches her father, the river-god Peneus, who, in order to save her, transforms her into a laurel tree, with her limbs losing their human appearance to become twigs.

I have gone on at length in my description of this scene because, although it is a subject often taken up in painting from the second half of the 17th century onwards and in the first half of the following century, it is very rare to come across examples of it that are so meticulously detailed that they render the succession of events.

Moreover, despite its considerable size, typical of an aristocratic picture gallery, it has a figurative imprint that is clear and well-defined in its outlines, together with a vivid pictorial imprint, but with colours that are as if chilled, denoting the presence of an author who was also an expert in engraving, which probably constituted his main activity together with the constant practice of drawing.

Indeed, the painting considered here can be attributed to the hand of Giovanni Angelo Canini (Rome 1608 - 1666).

It is a testimony of certain authorship that could be linked to the series of works made by Canini for Cardinal Camillo Astaldi, a patron who in 1645-50 had commissioned him various pictorial decorations with profane subjects (some signed), including "Stories of Rinaldo and Armida", destined for his Theodoli Castle in Sambuci (near Tivoli), many of which have been lost.

Datable to around 1650, the work reflects Canini's emancipation from the initial prevailing stylistic approach based on Domenichino, whose direct pupil he was until the master's departure for Naples, while remaining linked to his classical orbit, but also affirming his evident interest in the rising affirmations of the Baroque.

The present painting in fact, although realised in a figurative language that was still strictly classicist, follows a narrative taste that was already baroque in its detailed description of events, in which, however, the human figure plays a leading role, albeit with clear arboreal elements in the background.

Regarding his painting activity for private use, unfortunately largely lost or obscured by deviant attributions, it is worth remembering that Giovanni Angelo Canini had acquired significant credit among the Roman cultural elite, thanks to his close relationships of esteem with Queen Christina of Sweden, as well as his documented relations with the court of the Savoys. ''

The conservation condition of the work appears to be good.


The painting is sold complete with an attractive frame and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity and descriptive iconographic card.

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