Apollo and Daphne signed in Greek (lower right) oil on canvas laid down on panel 41 x 30 cm. (16 1/8 x 11 3/4 in.)
Painted in 1937.
Provenance: Christies Greek Sale 12/5/1997 Private collection.
Exhibited: Thessaloniki, Municipal Gallery, 1997
One of the most inspired exponents of the 1930s generation and a leading figure of 20th c. art and literature, Nikos Engonopoulos produced artistic visions which allude to collective cultural symbols drawn from classical mythology, history and the heroism of a bygone era. According to art critic A. Xydis, Engonopoulos started painting his first significant works in 1937¹, a year before the artist published his first collection of poems that influenced many Greek writers.
According to Professor E. Mavrommatis, the present work, dominated by the handling of colour, was painted in 1937 and portrays the myth of Apollo and Daphne.² This subject affords the artist the opportunity to render the female form, which, always beautiful and seductive, would become a constant source of inspiration throughout his career. The male-female theme evolved into his signature series of works titled The Poet and his Muse, Orpheus and Euridice and The Artist and his Model.
According to Ovid, Daphne, an enchantingly beautiful river-nymph and daughter of river Peneus, was said to have been Apollos first love. One day, when the god saw her hunting, a blazing fire devoured his heart and he started off in pursuit. Daphne fled but soon felt Apollos breath upon her neck. Terrified, she asked her father for help. As she was saying the words, her feet took root in the earth, bark enclosed her and leaves spouted forth. She had been changed into a laurel-tree. Apollo watched the transformation with dismay and grief. O fairest of maidens, you are lost to me, he mourned while playing his lyre. But at least you shall be my tree. With your leaves my victors shall wreath their brows. You shall have your part in all my triumphs. Apollo and his laurel shall be joined together whenever songs are sung and stories told. ³
¹ A. Xydis, Nikos Engonopoulos, A Greek Surrealist Painter [in Greek], Tetradio magazine (Third), December 1945, p. 39 ² M. Mavrommatis in Thirty Years Plus The George & Manti Diamantidis Collection [in Greek], Thessaloniki 1992, p. 19 ³ E. Hamilton, Mythology, Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, New York, 1940, p. 115