Bernini’s reputation was clearly established by four masterpieces, executed between 1619 and 1625, all now displayed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. To the art historian Rudolf Wittkower these four works—Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius (1619), The Rape of Proserpina (1621–22), Apollo and Daphne (1622–25), and David (1623–24)—”inaugurated a new era in the history of European sculpture”. It is a view repeated by other scholars. Adapting the classical grandeur of Renaissance sculpture and the dynamic energy of the Mannerist period, Bernini forged a new conception for religious and historical sculpture.
Despite Bernini’s reputation falling after his death, Apollo and Daphne continued to be praised. A French traveller in 1839 commented that the group is “astonishing both for mechanism of art and elaborateness, is full of charm in the ensemble and the details.”