Gian Lorenzo BERNINI - my personal favorite
"Bernini - snippets from his life and work"
Most of the photos you see here are also on various Rome tips and they are here grouped as my favorite Bernini works. I did want to create a page - somewhat of a tribute to Bernini - with information about Bernini, the man. SEE ALSO THE TRAVELOGUE - BERNINI'S BRIDGE OF ANGELS
Born in Naples, he moved to Rome in 1606 with his father where they lived in a house across from Santa Maria Maggiore, then considered a rather remote location.
The favour of Urbanus VIII and commissions to various palaces, churches and the decoration of St Peter's, made Gian Lorenzo Bernini wealthy and influential. In 1642 he bought two buildings in Via della Mercede Bernini where he lived in one and rented the other until his death in 1680.
He left a fortune to his heirs who moved to a building in Via del Corso opposite from Palazzo Ruspoli, known as Palazzo Bernini. The late XIXth century inscription alludes to popes and princes kneeling before him. Bernini had a very likeable personality and, in the vernacular of present times, he had great marketing skills.
When Queen Christina of Sweden visited him he met her in his workshop, still dressed in his work clothes, by this indicating that his activity as an artist took precedence over the rules of protocol.
This is a noted self portrait and it has often been said that Bernini used himself as a model for the face of his famous David mable sculpture on view at the Gallery Borghese (not included in this travelogue group).
"Bernini's Ecstacy of Saint Teresa of Avila"
From my accidental visit to the Church of Sant Maria dell Vittoria where I was in the wrong church - but the right pew - as I glanced to my left, my eyes rested upon this sculpture. I'm not sure how long I stood transfixed, but everyone else in the church had taken their seats and I was still standing - I turned two pages in my missle to catch up with the Mass. (Nope, didn't pull out my camera and take this photo during Mass!)
This depicts the moment of the mystic "reverberation of light" when the Carmelite nun tells of having seen "an angel on the left, very beautiful - pierce the heart with a long golden dart, and the point seemed to be on fire." A beam of light coming from the opening cleverly hidden by the altar, illuminates Saint Teresa as she slides lifeless from the soft bed of clouds. In the 18th century the sculpture was particularly criticised for being too sensual and remained a work of great controversy.
"The Cornaro family in the side arches"
Ecstacy of Saint Teresa of Avila is actually a sculpture group - to the right and left of the central Saint Teresa you see eight members of the Cornaro family bearing witness from their balconies. The staging" of the work is accentuated by their presence as privileged spectators.
Photo by permission Roberto Piperno for non-commercial use only
"Truth Unveiled by Time (1645-52) marble"
As you enter the Borghese Gallery room VIII - this enormous figure all the way across the room catches your eye immediately - not only due to its sheer size and its corner setting but the muted cream, yellow, beige, tan shades in the marble - just the most exquisite veined marble and given its unique color composition, it takes on a luminous chromatic tonality.
Bernini's intention was that Winged Time lifts the drape to reveal the nude allegory with the sun in her hand. This was his eloquent reply to the violent accusations aimed at him regarding the Vatican campaniles project (1646). A summary of Bernini's take -- even if truth prevails, it sometimes arrives late!
If you take note of this face - many of Bernini's angels depict this same likeness - in particular the huge Angel in the Vatican Treasury Museum you will be astounded to see the same face bearing the same expression. I continue researching this face to find out just who might have been his model or if it was, in fact, another figure of his masterful fantasy.
"Tomb of Pope Urban VIII - 1627-47"
Tomb of Pope Urban VIII
Golden bronze and marble, figures larger than life-size
Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican
This is the second monumental papal tomb in the San Pietro made by Bernini. It was commissioned by the Pope and executed after his death in 1667 by a large group of sculptors headed by Bernini.
The composition is similar to that of the other (Urban VIII) tomb, however, there some differences. In contrast with the dominant figure of the Pope on the Urban tomb, the Pope here is a simple kneeling figure without any sign of his office. Instead of two there are four allegoric figures, Charity, Prudence, Justice and Truth. Below, there is a (real) door symbolizing the Gate of Death, from which a sand-glass holding skeleton (the Death) raises the heavy marble drapery.
"Apollo and Daphne"
Well, it first occurred to me that if this guy, Apollo, were chasing me - I don't think I would turn myself into a laurel tree - huh, uhhh..........
Now then, Apollo and Daphne - 1622-25 - Marble, height 243 cm
This is the last work of Bernini's commissioned by the Borghese family and one of his most noted sculptures. The influence of antique sculptures (Apollo of Belvedere) and of contemporary paintings (Guido Reni) is clearly seen.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini depicts the chaste nymph Daphne being turned into a laurel tree as she is pursued in vain by Apollo god of light. This life-size marble sculpture, begun by Bernini at the age of twenty-four and executed between 1622 and 1625, has always been housed in the same room in the villa, but originally stood on a lower and narrower base set against the wall near the stairs. Consequently anyone entering the room first saw Apollo from behind, then the fleeing nymph appeared in the process of metamorphosis. Bark covers most of her body, but according to Ovid's lines, Apollo's hand can still feel her heart beating beneath it. Thus the scene ends by Daphne being transformed into a laurel tree to escape her divine aggressor.
The presence of this pagan myth in the Cardinal's villa was justified by a moral couplet composed in Latin by Cardinal Maffeo Barberini (later Pope Urban VIII) and engraved on the cartouche on the base, which says: Those who love to pursue fleeting forms of pleasure, in the end find only leaves and bitter berries in their hands - how about that!!
Bernini developed the twisting pose and combined it with an impression of vital energy. The most extraordinary execution of this marble sculpture show Proserpina's hand pushing against Pluto's face and creases his marble skin - his fingers make their indentations in the flesh of her thigh. Seen from the left, the group shows Pluto taking a fast and powerful stride and grasping Proserpina, from the front he appears bearing his trophy in his arms; from the right one sees Proserpina's tears as she prays to heaven, the wind blowing her hair, as the guardian of Hades, the three-headed dog, barks. Numerous moments of the story are thus captured in a single sculpture.
The story: Once upon a time, when Proserpina, daughter of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, was gathering flowers in the fields, she was abducted by Pluto, god of the underworld, and carried off to his kingdom. Ceres was consumed with grief and in anger she scorched the earth, preventing grain from growing and the earth from producing fruit. Forced to intervene, Jupiter negotiated a compromise that provided Proserpina had not eaten anything while in the underworld she would be set free. Pluto however offered Proserpina part of a pomegranate, which she accepted. The Fates would not allow Proserpina to be fully released, but a negotiated settlement provided that she would spend part of the year with Pluto in the underworld (winter) and part of the year with her mother Ceres (summer). When Proserpina is with Pluto the earth is barren and cold and when she returns to her mother, Ceres pours forth the blessings of spring to welcome her beloved daughter home.
"Detail of indentations in the marble flesh"
Bernin - one of his most incredible marble executions