Apollo and Daphne, 1626
Oil on canvas
63 x 77 cm / 24.8 x 30.3 in
Rome, Collection Cassiano Dal Pozzo
By descent in
the family collection to Maria Laura Dal Pozzo (death 1771)
By descent to
her son Giuseppe Boccapaduli,
Sold by him sometime
between 1771 and 1809
Poussin in the Dal Pozzo Collection,in
“The Burlington Magazine”, 1985, p. 900;
T.J. Standring, Some Pictures by Poussin
in the Dal Pozzo Collection: Three New Inventories, in “The Burlington
Magazine”, 1988, pp. 624-625;
P. Rosenberg, “L’année Poussin”, in Nicolas Poussin 1594-1665, catalogue of
the exhibition, Paris 1994, pg. 16;
P. Rosenberg - L. Prat, Nicolas Poussin:
La Collection du Musée Conde à Chantilly, catalogue of the exhibition, Paris,
1994, p. 38;
Fagiolo Dell’Arco, Jean Lemaire pittore
“antiquario”, Rome 1996, p. 147;
T. J. Standring, Poussin’s Infancy of
Bacchus Once Owned by Sir Joshua Reynolds: A New Addition to The Corpus Of The
Early Roman Pictures, in “Artibus et Historiae” 1996, pp. 59, 61;
K. Akira – K. Yukitaka, Claude Lorrain
and the Ideal Landscape, exhibition catalogue, Tokyo 1998, pp. 50 – 51;
D. Mahon, Gli esordi
di Nicolas Poussin pittore: lavori dei suoi primi anni di Roma, in Nicolas Poussin. I primi anni romani,
catalogue of the exhibition Milan 1998, p. 19;
D. Mahon, Works from his first years in
Rome, Jerusalem 1999, p. 26;
T.J. Standring, Sulle tracce di Poussin, in
“Quadri e Sculture” 2000, pp. 4–21;
Z. Dimitrova, Poussin. The
Death of Eurydice – Apollo and Daphne, London 2002;
P. Rosenberg, Poussin and Nature.
Arcadian Vision, exhibition catalogue edited by P. Rosenberg – K.
Christiansen, New York 2008, pp. 130 - 133;
Z. Dimitrova, in A History of Taste.
Collecting French & Italian Old Master Paintings for America, exhibition
catalogue ed. by M. Voena, London 2010, pp. 40 - 45
Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art, Claude Lorrain and the Ideal Landscape, 15
September – 6 December 1998
Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes - New York, Metropolitan
Museum of Art, Poussin and Nature:
Arcadian Visions, 8th October 2007 – 13th January 2008 (Bilbao) 12th
February – 11th May 2008 (New York)
C. Thompson (ed), Poussin: Sacraments & Bacchanals –Paintings and Drawings on Sacred and Profane Themes by Nicolas Poussin 1594 –1665, catalogue of the exhibition, Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland, 1981
J. Thuillier, L’opera completa di Poussin, Milan, 1974R. Verdi, with essay by P. Rosenberg, Nicolas Poussin 1594-1665, catalogue of the exhibition, London, Royal Academy of Arts, 1995
S. McTighe, Nicolas Poussin’s Landscape Allegories, Cambridge University Press, 1996
The two paintings were discovered by Pierre Rosenberg in the late 1980s in a Swiss private collection and since then they have inspired a notable level of academic interest. The provenance of the two paintings from the Cassiano Del Pozzo collection and their place as one of the earliest landscape works painted by Poussin soon after his arrival in Rome clearly mark them as one of the most important discoveries for our knowledge of Poussin’s artistic beginnings.
The provenance of the paintings is attested to by the different inventories published in the past years by Timothy Standring: the 1740 inventory compiled by Antonio Maria Bozzolani, the most detailed and arguably the most objective of all the inventories; namely those drawn up in 1689, 1695, 1715, 1729 and later 1771, describes them as follows:
“39 Another painting on canvas made of three pieces which represents a landscape with two figures is the scene of The Death of Eurydice from Poussin, all retouched with its own gilded frame. This is written in the inventory of Gabriele at n. 95= 3 palms height (corresponding to 68.58 cm) canvas with Apollo and other Nymphs.
40 The other canvas is similar to the previous one, representing another landscape with Apollo half holding a nymph on her knees, painted by Poussin as before—this is described in the inventory at n. 103.” 
The inscriptions, presently copied on the frame but prior to the relining on the original canvas, further testify the provenance of the paintings from the Cassiano Dal Pozzo collection: they are typical Dal Pozzo inscriptions, much like those seen on many other pictures from his collection.
The “Apollo and a Nymph” and the “Death of Eurydices” remained together in the collection of the Cassiano Dal Pozzo’s heirs at least until 1771 when they were lastly recorded in the inventory drawn up by the Sienese artist Giovanni Sorbi following Maria Laura del Pozzo’s death. The two paintings passed into the collection of Maria Laura del Pozzo’s son Giuseppe Boccapaduli who, as a document published by Timothy Standring (1988, p. 613, fig. 42) reveals, sold them for 50 scudi sometime between 1771 and his death in 1809, most probably around 1800.
The identification of the subject of the two paintings has lead scholars to different interpretations: the first canvas has been published several times as Apollo and Daphne, but the lack of the laurel branches that sprout from Daphne’s arms might suggest that here Poussin has only represented Apollo pursuing a Nymph, as also the old inscription indicates. The subject of the second painting was given even more interpretations, The Death of Eurydice, Alpheus and Arethusa and even – but, it seems clearly a mistake – The Death of Orpheus. As Mira Dimitrova pointed out in the catalogues of the two Robilant + Voena exhibitions (2002 and 2010) the painting is a depiction of the death of Eurydice as told in Virgil’s Georgica. Following her marriage to Orpheus, Eurydice is seduced by Aristeus, but on running away from him
Running at breathtaking speed along the river,
The young girl (Eurydice), already touched by death,
to escape from you, did not see the monstrous snake
hiding in the thick grass on the shore 
Virgil, Georgica, IV, 457 – 459.
The male figure that arrives running from the right may be identified both with Orpheus discovering his dead bride, but even better, (due to the lack of the lyra and the laurel crown – the usual attributes of Orpheus) with Aristeus.
The two paintings were clearly conceived as a pair with Apollo and a Nymph to be displayed to the left and The Death of Eurydice to the right as the tall lush trees present in both the canvases seem to frame the two mythological episodes in a frieze composition.
The canvases, as confirmed by Pierre Rosenberg in the Bilbao – New York exhibition catalogue, undoubtedly date to the years 1625/’26, a period of great poverty in Poussin’s life, when the French artist painted prodigiously, attempting to attract patrons and to make his name by undertaking literary subjects, which he translated into easily read images. Poussin arrived in Rome in the spring of 1624 (in April according to one of his earliest biographers) but the first years proved particularly difficult for him. Marino died in 1625 and the same year Cassiano dal Pozzo left for Spain and France along with the all–powerful Barberinis. It is only in 1627 with the commission of the Death of Germanicus for Francesco Barberini, nephew of Pope Urban VIII and the following years with the commission of the Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus for St. Peter Cathedral - two paintings in which nature plays no role – that Poussin gained public acknowledgement.
In the previous years, Poussin worked mainly on landscape paintings of small and medium size with subjects taken from mythology; alongside the two paintings here presented also at least the Landscape with a Nymph and Sleeping Satyr of the Musée Fabre in Montpellier (fig. 1) and the Amor vincit omnia of the Cleveland Museum of Art (fig. 2) should be mentioned. In these works it is evident the influence of the Venetian models of the Renaissance and of Bolognese landscape painting, from Annibale Carracci to Domenichino; in a certain measure Poussin is still finding his own language before the “Landscape in a Noble and Heroic Style” (the definition is still due to Pierre Rosenberg) of the early 1630s such as, just to mention two of his most celebrated paintings, the Bacchanal before an Herm of the National Gallery of London or The Kingdom of Flora of the Gemäldegalerie in Dresden.
 The original Italian text reads “39 Altro quadro in tela de 3 p. per traverso Rapp. Un Paese Con dui figure cioe La morte di Euridice, dal Poussini, tutto ritoccato Con Sua Cornice fatta a Cassa Dorata – Questo e discritto nell’inventario d’Gabrielle [the 1695 inventory] al no. =95= Altro di 3 palmi con paese con dui figuri del Pusino” “40 Altro in tela Consimile parim. Per traverso Rappr. Un altro Paese con Apollo che ritiene una ninfa mezza genuflessa, perimenti del Pousini ritoccato, come sopra – Questo e nell’inventario descritto al no. 103 = Altro In tela di 3 palmi con Apollo et altre Ninfe”
 The original Latin text reads “Ila quidem, dum te fugeret, per flumina praeceps / Immanem ante pedes hydrum moritura puella / Servantem ripas alta non vidit in herba”
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