Apollo and Daphne, TiepoloAs an undergraduate in a school that didn’t have minors, I unwittingly almost triple majored in art history. I’d accumulated so many classes in it that by senior year I was just shy a couple.

In the end, living in Italy, I (only half jokingly) claim it’s the most important subject I ever studied. After all, here in Italy we’re blessed with some of the most beautiful art in the world.

Even if I don’t set out to do so, I often find myself sneaking art I love into my writing. Two of my short stories feature Italian art in a prominent role.

One of my stories, Caves, uses a cave fresco of Santa Lucia in the story, and another set in Orvieto, Bitter Harvest,  includes Signorelli’s masterpiece, the Last Judgement.

Tiepolo, Daphne and ApolloBut my current work-in-progress includes a painting by Tiepolo (1696-1770) with its own role in the book. I love mythology, so it’s not strange that I would choose this wonderful depiction of Apollo and Daphne.

This stunning  painting is not, as I claim in my book, in the Bath, England student living quarters of a Jane Austen seminar, but instead in the Louvre Museum of Paris, where I’ve seen it. (Although I would much prefer to be like my protagonist, Janet, and be fortunate enough to have this painting hanging in  my bedroom.)

Apollo and Daphne, berniniThe painting exerts a powerful influence on my protagonist, and begins to get her thinking about metamorphoses. After all, the painting depicts the moment in which the wood nymph Daphne begs deliverance from the Sun God, Apollo, who is pursuing her. Tiepolo has depicted the moment in which the leaves burst from her fingers as she transforms into a laurel tree.

Tiepolo’s painting was, in turn, inspired by lithographs he probably saw of the masterpiece of  Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680).

Apollo and Daphne, BerniniBernini’s Apollo and Daphne is today in Rome’s spectacular Galleria Borghese. I’ve seen it countless times, but I’m always thrilled to go back and visit  it once more. The coils of Daphne’s hair and the delicate leaves sprouting from her fingertips make it impossible to believe this was once a lifeless block of marble.

So for me, it was a lot of fun to incorporate this milennia-old myth with some of my favorite artwork and to have given it a prominent role in my story.

And you, writers? Do you see certain interests working your way into your manuscripts, even when you don’t plan it that way? Favorite places, art, music, etc?