Gian Lorenzo Bernini
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Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Gian Lorenzo BerniniGian Lorenzo Bernini
Self-Portrait of Bernini, c. 1623 Birth name Gian Lorenzo Bernini Born 7 December 1598 Naples, Kingdom of Naples, in present-day Italy 28 November 1680 (aged81) Rome, Papal States, in present-day Italy
Nationality Italian Field Movement Works Sculpture, painting, architecture Baroque style David, Apollo and Daphne, The Rape of Proserpina, Ecstasy of Saint Theresa
Gian Lorenzo Bernini (also spelled Gianlorenzo or Giovanni Lorenzo) (Naples, 7 December 1598 Rome, 28 November 1680) was an Italian artist and a prominent architect who worked principally in Rome. He was the leading sculptor of his age, credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture. In addition, he painted, wrote plays, and designed metalwork and stage sets. A student of classical sculpture, Bernini possessed the ability to capture, in marble, the essence of a narrative moment with a dramatic naturalistic realism which was almost shocking. This ensured that he effectively became the successor of Michelangelo, far outshining other sculptors of his generation, including his rival, Alessandro Algardi. His talent extended beyond the confines of his sculpture to consideration of the setting in which it would be situated; his ability to synthesise sculpture, painting and architecture into a coherent conceptual and visual whole has been termed by the art historian Irving Lavin the "unity of the visual arts". A deeply religious man, working in Counter Reformation Rome, Bernini used light as an important metaphorical device in the perception of his religious settings, often using hidden light sources that could intensify the focus of religious worship, or enhance the dramatic moment of a sculptural narrative. Bernini was also a leading figure in the emergence of Roman Baroque architecture along with his contemporaries, the architect, Francesco Borromini and the painter and architect, Pietro da Cortona. Early in their careers they had all worked at the same time at the Palazzo Barberini, initially under Carlo Maderno and on his death, under Bernini. Later on, however, they were in competition for commissions and fierce rivalries developed, particularly between
Gian Lorenzo Bernini Bernini and Borromini. Despite the arguably greater architectural inventiveness of Borromini and Cortona, Bernini's artistic pre-eminence, particularly during the reigns of popes Urban VIII (16231644) and Alexander VII (16551665), meant he was able to secure the most important commission in the Rome of his day, St. Peter's Basilica. His design of the Piazza San Pietro in front of the Basilica is one of his most innovative and successful architectural designs. During his long career, Bernini received numerous important commissions, many of which were associated with the papacy. At an early age, he came to the attention of the papal nephew, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, and in 1621, at the age of only 23, he was knighted by Pope Gregory XV. Following his accession to the papacy, Urban VIII is reported to have said, "Your luck is great to see Cardinal Maffeo Barberini Pope, Cavaliere; but ours is much greater to have Cavalier Bernini alive in our pontificate." Although he did not fare so well during the reign of Innocent X, under Alexander VII, he once again regained pre-eminent artistic domination and continued to be held in high regard by Clement IX. Bernini and other artists fell from favour in later neoclassical criticism of the Baroque. It is only from the late 19th century that art historical scholarship, in seeking an understanding of artistic output in the cultural context in which it was produced, has come to recognise Bernini's achievements and restore his artistic reputation.
Early lifeBernini was born in Naples to a Mannerist sculptor, Pietro Bernini, originally from Florence, and Angelica Galante, a Neapolitan, the sixth of their thirteen children. Bernini himself would not marry until May 1639, at age forty-one, when he wed a twenty-two-year-old Roman girl, Caterina Tezio, in an arranged marriage. She bore him eleven children including youngest son Domenico Bernini who became his first biographer. In 1606, at the age of eight he accompanied his father to Rome, where Pietro was involved in several high profile projects. There, as a boy, Gianlorenzo's skill was soon noticed by the painter Annibale Carracci and by Pope Paul V, and he soon gained the important patronage of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the papal nephew. His first works were inspired by antique Hellenistic sculpture.
Rise to master sculptorUnder the patronage of the Cardinal Borghese, the young Bernini rapidly rose to prominence as a sculptor. Among the early works for the cardinal were decorative pieces for the garden of the Villa Borghese such as The Goat Amalthea with the Infant Zeus and a Faun, and several allegorical busts such as the Damned Soul and Blessed Soul. By the time he was 22, he had completed the Bust of Pope Paul V. Scipione's collection in situ at the Borghese gallery chronicles his secular sculptures, with a series of masterpieces: Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius (1619) depicts three ages of man from various viewpoints, borrowing from a figure in a Raphael fresco. In The Aeneid, Aeneas flees the burning city of Troy, carrying his father and his son at his heels. His father holds the household gods and his son holds the eternal flame. Aeneas is the founder of Latium, later Italy, and the father of the Romans. The sculpture is in a very Mannerist upwards spiral.
Apollo and Daphne (16221625)
The Rape of Proserpina (16211622) recalls Giambologna's Mannerist Rape of the Sabine Women, and displays wonderful skill in carving, most notably the hand of Pluto pushing into the soft flesh of Prosperina's leg.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini Apollo and Daphne (16221625) has been widely admired since Bernini's time; along with the subsequent sculpture of David it represents the introduction of a new sculptural aesthetic. It depicts the most dramatic and dynamic moment in one of Ovid's stories in his Metamorphoses. In the story, Apollo, the god of light, scolded Eros, the god of love, for playing with adult weapons. In retribution, Eros wounded Apollo with a golden arrow that induced him to fall madly in love at the sight of Daphne, a water nymph sworn to perpetual virginity, who, in addition, had been struck by Eros with a lead arrow which caused her to harshly spurn Apollo's advances. The sculpture depicts the moment when Apollo finally captures Daphne, yet she has implored her father, the river god, to destroy her beauty and repel Apollo's advances by transforming her into a laurel tree. This statue succeeds at various levels: it depicts the event and also represents an elaborate conceit of sculpture. This sculpture tracks the metamorphoses as a representation in stone of a person changing into lifeless vegetation; in other words, while a sculptor's art is to change inanimate stone into animated narrative, this sculpture narrates the opposite, the moment a woman becomes a tree. David (16231624), like the Apollo and Daphne, marked a stylistic difference from Reniassance sculptural work, with an emphasis on suggesting the movement of the characters and their integration as part of a narrative. The most obvious contrast is Michelangelo, who portrayed David prior to his battle with Goliath, implying the psychological strength necessary for the task at hand. The twisted torso, furrowed forehead, and taut grimace of Bernini's David epitomise the Baroque concern over movement and emotion over High Renaissance stasis and classical severity. Michelangelo expressed David's inner strength, preparing for battle; Bernini captures the moment when he actually becomes a hero.
Mature sculptural outputBernini's sculptural output was immense and varied. Among his other well-known sculptures: the Ecstasy of St. Theresa, in the Cornaro Chapel (see Bernini's Cornaro chapel: the complete work of art found in the Baroque section), Santa Maria della Vittoria, and the now-hidden Constantine, at the base of the Scala Regia (which he designed). He was given the commission for the Tomb of Pope Urban VIII in St Peters. He helped design the Ponte Sant'Angelo, sculpting two of the angels, soon replaced by copies by his own hand, while the others were made by his pupils based on his designs. At the end of April 1665, at the height of his fame and powers he travelled to Paris, where he remained until November; he met Paul Frart de Chantelou who kept a Journal of Bernini's visit. Bernini's international popularity was such that on his walks in Paris the streets were lined with admiring crowds. This trip, encouraged by Father Oliva, general of the Jesuits, was a response to the repeated requests for his works by King Louis XIV. Here Bernini presented some designs for the east Ecstasy of St. Theresa (16471652) front of the Louvre. which were ultimately rejected. He soon lost favor at the French court as he praised the art and architecture of Italy over that of France; he said that a painting by Guido Reni was worth more than all of Paris. The sole work remaining from his time in Paris is a bust of Louis XIV, which set the standard for royal portraiture for a century.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini
ArchitectureBernini's architectural works include sacred and secular buildings and sometimes their urban settings and interiors. He made adjustments to existing buildings and designed new constructions. Amongst his most well known works are the Piazza San Pietro (16561667), the piazza and colonnades in front of St. Peter's Basilica and the interior decoration of the Basilica. Amongst his secular works are a number of Roman palaces: following the death of Carlo Maderno, he took over the supervisio