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Axel Salto (Danmark 1889‑1961)


Säljs vid Uppsala Auktionskammares Internationella Kvalitetsauktion 16-18 juni 2020

Nr. 627 Axel Salto (Danmark 1889‑1961) Skulptur. ”Daphne”. Modellnummer 20.671. Royal Copenhagen, Danmark 1958. Signerad SALTO med böljemärket och fabriksstämpel samt 20.671. I form av den grekiska nymfen Daphne som förvandlas till ett lagerträd. Stengods med sungglasyr. L 34, B 20,5, H 59 cm.

Koncipierad 1944.


150.000 – 200.000 SEK
€ 14.000 – 19.000


Otto Gelsted, Axel Salto, 1962, jämför med träsnittet “Daphne forvandles til et træ” från 1939, s. 34.
Susanne Bruhn & Pia Wirnfeldt (red.), Axel Salto – Stentøjsmesteren, 2017, modellen upptagen i förteckningen kat. nr. 176 samt avbildad s. 205‑206.


Axel Salto’s Daphne – Shaping the myth

An inspiration for poets, musicians, sculptors and painters throughout the ages, the story of the nymph Daphne and the pursuit of her attention by Olympian deity Apollo is one of the oldest myths of ancient Greece. Even the earliest versions show differences, especially in the interpretation of the relationship between the god and the nymph, in her transformation as well as in King Oenomaus’ son Leucippus role in the whole. One version tells how Leucippus falls in love with the beautiful Daphne. To be able to approach her, he lets his hair grow, dresses like a woman and hides among her friends. In this disguise he becomes her confidant but at the 

Daphne forvandles til et træ, Woodcut, 1939

same time awakens the jealousy of Apollo, who also loves her. Apollo persuades the girls to take a bath in the river Ladon, leading to Leucippus being revealed. The women kills him with spears and hunting knives. Daphne flees from Apollo and just as he is about to catch her, Olympian ruler Zeus hears her plea and turns her into a laurel tree.

The oldest literary reference to the story can be found in Roman poet Ovid’s magnus opus ”Metamorphoses” where the episode with Leucippus is excluded. In its place, Ovid tells a different version of Daphne’s encounters with Apollo. During a discussion, Apollo insults Cupid, god of desire, who angrily responds by firing at him one of his golden arrows. This causes Apollo to become head over heels in love with Daphne. Cupid also fires an arrow at Daphne, but this arrow is blunt which has the opposite effect on her. So, when Apollo chases after Daphne, she does everything to escape him. He has almost caught up with her as she reaches the river, here called Peneios, in despair seeking help from her father, the river god of the same name, who promptly turns his daughter into a laurel tree. In other versions, she is devoured by her mother, the goddess Gaia, and in the place where she disappeared, the laurel tree grows. Furthermore, Ovid tells how Apollo, long after Daphne’s transformation, still can feel her heart beating under the bark.

In his early youth Axel Salto read Ovid’s ”Metamorphoses” and ”Ars Amandi” – both of which made a deep impression on him, and the ancient myths became a gateway to his artistic works. Today hailed as one of the greatest ceramic artists of the 20th century, Salto’s works stretched well beyond clay, including but not limited to painting and graphic works. One of his first explorations of the Daphne theme is an early etching from ca. 1916-17 called ”Apollon og Daphne”, showing the desperate Apollo embracing Daphne as the transformation begins. A further abstracted woodcut from 1939 bears the title ”Daphne forvandles til et træ”, showing the nymph merging with the tree. Again and again Salto returned to the myth. Having shifted his artistic focus to ceramics, he conceived the ceramic sculpture ”Daphne” in 1944 (although one known version in the collections of Royal Copenhagen is unmarked and secondary dated 1942).

The piece included in this sale was produced by Royal Copenhagen in 1958. Salto’s characteristic use of Sung glazes is perfectly suited for the metamorphosis at play. Created in the spirit of nature rather than imitating its exterior, the ‘budding’ style of which the artist is best known merges seamlessly with Daphne in her flawless contrapposto, as she and the laurel tree slowly becomes a whole. With ”Daphne”, Salto succeeded in forming a synthesis of his sense of being in a harmonious union with nature and his fear of its distressing, almost demonic rage, rendering the ancient myth according to his poetical and emotional imagination, culminating in an imposing yet delicate piece.

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Erik Ingare


Tel: 0720-70 67 89

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