In this ongoing series for Fine Art Today, we take a longer look at the history and features of a soon-to-be-available artwork of note. This week: Francesco Righetti, “Apollo & Daphne.”
During the 17th and 18th centuries, it was fashionable for the wealthy to amass collections of exotic goods, cutting-edge technologies, scientific oddities, and exquisite art as part of their Wunderkammers or “Cabinet of Curiosities” collections. These encyclopedic collections were evidence of the owner’s expertise, intelligence, and control over the natural and man-made worlds.
An outstanding selection of artworks from a Milanese cabinet collection will be available on June 13 via Sotheby’s in Milan, Italy. Among the highlights of the auction is Francesco Righetti’s gorgeous reproduction of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s masterwork “Apollo & Daphne” in the Borghese Collection in Rome. Although the sculptor, founder, and silversmith would receive numerous commissions from popes and monarchs during his career, it is indeed the artist’s small-scale reproductions — such as his version of “Apollo & Daphne” — for which Righetti is best remembered.
Scholar James Harper writes, “Righetti trained in the workshop of the leading Roman sculptor-silversmith of the day, Luigi Valadier, and emerged from his training as a versatile artist-craftsman in his own right. Righetti’s first major independent commission came in 1781, from the English banker Henry Hope. Hope requested twelve full-sized lead replicas of famous sculptures, which were to be painted white to simulate marble.”
The sculpture displays the dramatic mythological moment when the Olympian god Apollo attempts to capture the nymph Daphne. Overcome with hatred for the god, Daphne tries to flee. As she pleads to her father, Peneus, for help, he obliges by transforming Daphne into a tree. Bernini’s baroque masterpiece captures Daphne mid-transformation, her feet beginning to root themselves into the ground, tree bark flowing into her torso, and her fingers growing leaves. The sculpture displays a dynamic diagonal composition, heightening its dramatic impact and sense of movement. Auction estimates are between $34,000 and $56,000.
To view the full catalogue, visit Sotheby’s.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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