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Title Daphne Pursued by Apollo
Collection Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham
Artist Italian School
Previously attributed to the Master of Paris (Italian painter, active late 15th century)
Date Earliest about 1450
Date Latest about 1455
Description

The scenes illustrate a story from Metamorphoses, written by the Roman poet Ovid. The poem describes a series of magical transformations. In the left panel the god Apollo pursues the nymph Daphne, who flees after having rejected his love. As Apollo draws close, she begs for help from the gods, and is changed into a laurel tree in the right panel.

These two panels probably formed the ends of a decorated chest, known as a cassone. They were often used to hold a bride's dowry goods. The paintings have previously been attributed to the Master of the Judgement of Paris. However, the panels are by two different artists from the same workshops, which may explain why Apollo wears two different costumes.

Current Accession Number 50.7a
Subject mythology (Apollo; Daphne)
Measurements 47.4 x 53.1 cm
Material tempera on panel (hardwood {poplar})
Acquisition Details Purchased from the Henry Harris collection 1950 for 90.
Provenance Henry Harris sale, Sotheby's, London, 25 October 1950 (lot 208).
Principal Exhibitions Telling Time, National Gallery, London, 2000, cat. no. 3.
Notes On reverse of both panels in chalk '270'.

Caroline Campbell of the National Gallery observed that the cassone has been heavily re-painted at some point, particularly in the faces. She confirmed that the panels would have been produced in the same workshop but were clearly by two different artists. She suggested that it was painted between 1440 and 1450 in Florence. There is a comparable cassone in the Courtauld Institute, the Battle of Pharsalus cassone, dated 1470-75, Florentine (F.1947.LF.3).

Peter Humfrey discusses the Paris Master in his recent book, Glasgow Museums: the Italian paintings, London, 2012, p. 37: The artist was given the pseudonym by Paul Schubring in Cassoni (Leipzig, 1915), who attributed to him 22 other cassone panels with literary and mythological themes. It was soon recognised that this group is not stylistically coherent. Stylistically, these panels depend on the work of the Florentine painters Domenico Veneziano (ca.1400-1461) and Pesellino (ca. 1422-1457), and may be dated to the middle years of the fifteenth century.

Schubring discusses an Apollo and Daphne cassone in his 1915 catalogue, nos. 154 & 155, p. 258. This cassone belonged to the Earl of Crawford and had come from the House of Frescobaldi in Florence. It was exhibited at London's New Gallery exhibition of 1893-4 (cat. no. 104) and was described as follows: '(1) Marriage Scene. On the back panel is seen on the left the arrival of the bridegroom with his retinue of knights and his reception by the father of the bride and the bride, who are accompanied by attendants and knights; on the right the marriage feast with people dancing before the bride and bridegroom and their attendants; in the background buildings and sea with boats; below are the arms of the Avansati family. (2) War between the Persians and Greeks. On the front panel Darius, seated on a canopied car, is departing for the war against Alexander the Great; he is followed by his mother and wife who are seated in another car and surrounded by their children on foot; retinue of soldiers and horsemen; in the background, landscape with cities. (3) Story of Apollo and Daphne. On the left end panel Apollo pursuing Daphne, and on the right end one Daphne changed into a tree, the trunk of which is embraced by Apollo'. The description and the dimensions given do not entirely match the Barber panels and if this was the same work then it would have had to have been broken up after 1894.

Rights Owner The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham
Author Dr Nicola Gauld/Barber Institute
 

 

 

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