One of the Museum’s finest European paintings is this work by Pontormo, best known for his work in Mannerism, a late Renaissance style. Based on classical mythology, Apollo and Daphne was created when Pontormo was just eighteen-years-old. Commissioned in 1513 by the Medici in Florence, the scene decorated a carriage used in a carnival that marked the family’s triumphant return to power after years of exile. Here Apollo, madly in love with the nymph Daphne, chases her through the woods as Daphne escapes his advances through her metamorphosis into a laurel tree. In memory of his beloved, Apollo adopted the tree’s leaves as his emblem, and the Medici later appropriated the laurel after their return to power. Classical mythology has long provided a major source of imagery and symbolism among European and American societies.
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