The inspiration for this work is taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses I 452-567, which describes Daphne, Apollo's most celebrated love. Ovid recounts how Apollo was struck by Cupid's golden arrow kindling love, as Daphne was struck by a leaden arrow, putting love into flight. Symbolizing the victory of Chastity over Lust, Daphne fled from Apollo's advances and saved herself by changing into a laurel bush.
Commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1622, Bernini's life-size marble of Apollo and Daphne was completed, with interruptions, by mid-1624 at a cost of 600 scudi. The marble is now in the Borghese Gallery, Rome.