Ovid in Marble

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Bernini’s “Apollo and Daphne”

Ovid’s poem “Metamorphoses” indirectly exposes its non-traditional perspective by the parallels found in the Adam and Eve myth. In Genesis, Adam warns Eve away from the tree of knowledge, but the snake, which historically has been portrayed as wicked and threatening, invites her to take of its fruit and see for herself that it is good. Comparatively, in Ovid’s poem Apollo slays the snake, symbolically killing the messenger of an idea that threatens the status quo—the education and empowerment of women. Daphne embodies the forbidden tree by deciding for herself what is good, even when to do so is deemed wicked and at odds with societal norms. In a profound move that shakes what it means to be feminine from its patriarchal roots, Daphne’s transformation symbolizes rejection of the masculine prohibition on female liberation, as she literally becomes the symbolic vessel of knowledge. Bernini captures this moment in marble.

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