Sculpture Garden

1 / 10

Renée Sintenis. Daphne. 1930 115

Bronze, 56 1/2 × 11 7/8 × 9 7/8" (143.5 × 30.2 × 25.1 cm). Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund. © 2024 Renée Sintenis / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Germany

Curator, Ann Temkin: Daphne is a sculpture by the german artist Renée Sintenis. She was in fact pronounced a degenerate artist during the Nazi era, but she went on after that to continued success and really a great reputation. She is probably best known as the sculptor of the mascot of Berlin the Berlin Bear. The sculpture that we have we acquired in 1939. We wouldn’t have been acquiring that many works by women ten years after we were founded so this was quite a notable exception.

The figure Daphne is from a Greek myth. Daphne was beloved by Apollo the head of the gods, and Apollo was pursuing her. She did not want the attentions of Apollo, and she pleaded with her father to help her. The only way he could keep her from being caught by Apollo was to transform her into a tree. The sculpture depicts the dramatic moment when Daphne is being saved from Apollo by this rather drastic solution. The way in which Sintenis has carved the body is very expressive. It almost makes you think of a dancer the way the limbs are lengthened. And you see this especially on her head of course where the twigs and leaves are already taking over. And if you look down at the bottom the toes and the feet are turning into what will be roots that will anchor her in the ground.

It's interesting to think that Daphne for the most part over many many centuries was taken as a sculptural subject by artists who were men. One could imagine that Sintenis’ relationship to the idea of Daphne was quite different than the men who would have sculpted her. She’s definitely in a moment of terror.