Daphne Fleeing Apollo Mounted by Phillips Brothers & Sons


an orange carnelian intaglio formerly in the collection of Prince Stanislas Poniatowski (1754-1833), depicting the Naiad nymph Daphne (daughter of the river god Peneus), fleeing from the god Apollo who fell in love with her after being struck by one of Cupid’s arrows. She pleads with her father to save her from Apollo and hearing her entreaties, Peneus turns his daughter into a laurel tree. The intaglio depicts the moment Daphne begins her transformation.

Signed: ΓΝΑΙΟΣ
Rome, circa 1800

Gem: 5cm x 3.8cm

Mounted in a yellow gold brooch in the archaeological taste by Phillips Brothers, circa 1860. The border decorated with characteristic white enamelled discs with dark blue centres, wirework and beading. Signed to the reverse.



In characteristic form for a gem commissioned by Prince Stanislas Poniatowski, the intaglio bears the signature of a famous ancient Roman gem engraver, in this case Gnaios. It appears in the Catalogue des pierres graveés antiques de S.A. le Prince Stanislas Poniatowski, number I.243. It also appears as number 155 in Explanatory catalogue of the proof-impressions of the antique gems possessed by the late Prince Poniatowski and now in the possession of John Tyrrell, Esq, published in 1841. In the sale at Christies of 1839, it was lot 2324.

The transformation of Daphne was a popular subject for painters and sculptors during the Renaissance and into the 17th and 18th Centuries. Most famous is the extraordinary marble sculpture completed by Gian Lorenzo Berini (1598-1680) in the early 1620s for Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1577-1603). The subject was also treated by Titian, Peter Paul Rubens and Nicolas Poussin.