Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- This is a bust, or sculpture of a person’s head, neck, shoulders, and chest. It was sculpted in marble, in the Neoclassical style. This style was inspired by ancient Greek and Roman art.
- In Greek mythology Daphne was a water spirit and the daughter of a river god. The sun god Apollo fell in love with her and chased her. In an effort to escape from Apollo, Daphne prayed to her father and was transformed into a laurel tree. This sculpture depicts Daphne the moment before she was covered in laurel leaves.
- Harriet Goodhue Hosmer sculpted Daphne as her first independent work.
- Hosmer grew up practicing outdoor sports like canoeing and horseback riding, and her father encouraged her interest in art. She studied human anatomy (which was usually forbidden for women at that time) in order to become a sculptor. She later joined a colony of American artists in Rome and had a successful art career.
In Greek mythology Daphne was the daughter of a river god. Fleeing the unwanted advances of Apollo, she appealed to her father, who transformed her into a laurel tree. Harriet Hosmer depicts the young nymph serenely accepting her fate, or, as the artist put it in a letter, “just sinking away into the laurel leaves.”
This bust is the first independent work by Hosmer and demonstrates the neoclassical style she cultivated in Rome, where she was a prominent female figure in an expatriate colony of American writers and artists.
Resources for Teachers
- Read the story of Daphne and Phoebus from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book 1, lines 438 through 567).
- View a portrait of Hosmer by Sir William Boxall.
- Read an article about Hosmer.
Resources for Students