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Gian Lorenzo Bernini

A self portrait: Bernini is said to have used his own features in his David.

A self portrait: Bernini is said to have used his own features in his David.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini) (December 7, 1598, Naples – November 28, 1680, Rome) was a pre-eminent Baroque sculptor and architect of 17th century Rome.

Early life and work
Bernini was born in Naples to a Florentine family and accompanied his father Pietro Bernini, a capable Mannerist sculptor himself, to Rome. Here the young prodigy's capabilities were soon noticed by the painter Annibale Carracci and by Pope Paul V, and Bernini could therefore begin work as an independent artist. His first works were inspired by Hellenistic sculpture of ancient Greece and imperial Rome he could study in the new seat.

Bernini's maturation into a master sculptor are evident in the Galleria Borghese
Under the patronage of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, a member of the then reigning papal family, young Bernini rapidly rose to prominence as a sculptor. Among these early works developed for the cardinal, were decorative pieces for the garden such as The Goat Amalthea with the Infant Zeus and a Faun and several allegorical busts such as the Damned Soul and Blessed Soul. In the 1620 he completed the bust of Pope Paul V. Scipione's villa chronicles his secular sculptures, with a series of masterpieces:

1) Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius (1619) depicting three ages of man from various viewpoints, borrowing from a figure in a Raphael fresco, and perhaps an allegory reflecting the moment when son attains the skill of his father. 
2) Abduction of Proserpine, (1621-22) where the young artist creates a monument recalling Giambologna's Mannerist Rape of the Sabine Women, and masterfully dimpling the woman's marble skin. 
3) Apollo and Daphne (1622-25) shows the most dramatic moment in one of Ovid's metamorphosis tales. In the story, Apollo, the god of light, scolds Eros, the god of love, for playing with adult weapons. Eros is angered and wounds Apollo with a golden arrow induces Apollo, upon sight of Daphne, a water nymph who had declared her perpetual virginity, to fall in love. Eros also wounded Daphne with a lead arrow that induces her to reject Apollo's advances. Apollo pursues Daphne. Just when he captures her she cries out to her father, the river god, to destroy her beauty in order to quell Apollo's advances. Her father responds by mutating her into a laurel tree. If representative sculpture of human figures metamophoses a person into a depiction in lifeless stone, this statue doubles the conceit, depicting in marble a life changing to inanimate tree, the moving woman freezing into a tree. 
4) David (1623-24) by Bernini was a revolutionary statement in the history of art. The biblical youth is taut and poised to rocket his projectile. Famous Davids sculpted by Florentine predecessors to Bernini had been static after the event; for example, the triumphant reposed of the famous Michelangelo's David or the haughty effeteness of Donatello's or Verrocchio's Davids. The twisted torso, furrowed forehead, and granite grimace of Bernini's David epitomize Baroque fixation with dynamic movement and emotion over High Renaissance stasis and classic severity. Michelangelo expressed David's heroic nature; Bernini captures the moment where he becomes a hero. 

Ratto di Proserpina

Ratto di Proserpina

Mature scultptural output, including his Santa Teresa in ecstasy
Bernini's sculptural output was immense and varied. Among his other best-known sculptures: the Ecstasy of St Theresa, in the Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, and the now-hidden Constantine, at the base of the Scala Regia (which he designed). He helped design the Ponte Sant'Angelo, sculpting two of the angels, soon replaced by copies, of his own, 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 traveled to Paris, remaining there until November. Bernini's popularity even abroad was shown by the fact he could hardly walk in Paris without the street being lined by crowds of people pointing at him.

This trip, encouraged by Father Oliva, general of the Jesuits, was a reply to the repeated requests for his works by King Louis XIV. Here Bernini presented some (ultimately rejected) designs for the east front of the Louvre; his adventurous concave-convex facades was discarded in favor of the more stern and classic proposals of native Claude Perrault. Bernini soon became unpopular in the French court for he praised the art and architecture of Italy at the expense of that of France. For example, he said that a painting by Guido Reni was worth more than all of Paris. The sole work remaining from time in Paris is a bust of Louis XIV which set the standard for the royal portraits for a century.

Bernini's architectural conceits include the piazza and colonnades of St Peter's. He planned several Roman palaces: Palazzo Barberini (from 1630 on which he worked with Borromini); Palazzo Ludovisi (now Palazzo Montecitorio); and Palazzo Chigi.

Bernini's first architectural project was the magnificent bronze baldacchino (1624-1633), the canopy over the high altar of St. Peter's Basilica, and the façade for the church of Santa Bibiana (1624). In 1629, before the Baldacchino was complete, Urban VIII put him in charge of all the ongoing architectural works at St Peter's. He was given the commission for the Basilica's tombs of the Barberini Pope and, years later, Pope Alexander VII Chigi. The Chair of Saint Peter (Cathedra Petri), in the apse of St. Peter's, is one of his masterpieces.

Bernini did not build many churches from scratch, preferring instead to concentrate on the embellishment of pre-existing structures. He fulfilled three commissions in the field; his stature allowed him the freedom to design the structure and decorate the interiors in coherent designs. Best known is the small oval baroque church of Sant'Andrea al Quirinale which includes the statue of St. Andrew the Apostle soaring high above the aedicule framing the high altar. Bernini also designed churches in Castelgandolfo (San Tommaso da Villanova) and Ariccia (Santa Maria Assunta).

Fountains in Rome

David for Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1623-24), (Galleria Borghese, Rome)
David for Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1623-24), (Galleria Borghese, Rome)

True to the decorative dynamism of Baroque, Roman fountains, part public works and part Papal monuments, were among his most gifted creations. Bernini's fountains are the Fountain of the Triton and Fountain of the Bees. The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in the Piazza Navona is a masterpiece of spectacle and political allegory. An oft-repeated, but false, anecdote tells that one of the Bernini's river gods defers his gaze in disapproval of the facade of Sant'Agnese in Agone (designed by the talented, but less politically successful, rival Francesco Borromini). However, the fountain was built several years before the façade of the church was completed.

Marble portraiture
Bernini also revolutionized marble busts, lending glamorous dynamism to once stony stillness of portraiture. Starting with the immediate pose, leaning out of the frame, of bust of Monsignor Pedro de Foix Montoya at Santa Maria di Monserrato, Rome. The once-gregarious Cardinal Scipione Borghese is frozen in conversation. The portrait of his alleged mistress, Costanza Buonarelli, does not portray divinity or royalty; but a woman in a moment of disheveled privacy, captured in conversation or surprise.

In his sculpted portraiture for more regal patrons, Bernini fashioned the windswept marble vestments and cascades of hair of Louis XIV's portrait would suffice to elevate any face to royalty. Similar exuberance glorifies the bust of Francesco I d'Este.

Other works
Another of Bernini's sculptures is known affectionately as Bernini's Chick by the Roman people. It is located in the Piazza della Minerva, in front of the church Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Pope Alexander VII decided that he wanted an ancient Egyptian obelisk to be erected in the piazza and commissioned Bernini to create a sculpture to support the obelisk. The sculpture of an elephant was finally created in 1667 by one of Bernini's students, Ercole Ferrata. One of the most interesting features of this elephant is its smile. To find out why it is smiling, the viewer must head around to the rear end of the animal and to see that its muscles are tensed and its tail is shifted to the left. Bernini sculpted the animal as if it were defecating. The animal's rear is pointed directly at the office of Father Domenico Paglia, a Dominican friar, who was one of the main antagonists of Bernini and his artisan friends, as a final salute and last word.

Bernini in 1665, painted by Baciccio

Bernini in 1665, painted by Baciccio

The death of his constant patron Urban VIII in 1644 released a horde of Bernini's rivals and marked a change in his career, but Innocent X set him back to work on the extended nave of St Peter's and commissioned the Four Rivers fountain in Piazza Navona. At the time of Innocent's death in 1655 Bernini was the aribiter of public taste in Rome. He died in Rome in 1680, and was buried in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.

The grave of Bernini at Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

The grave of Bernini at Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Two years after his death, Queen Christina of Sweden, then living in Rome, commissioned Filippo Baldinucci to write his biography, (translated in 1996 as The life of Bernini).

Bernini's works are featured in Dan Brown's novel Angels and Demons as markers and Altars of Science.

Selected works

Bust of Giovanni Battista Santoni (c. 1612) - Marble, life-size, Santa Prassede, Rome 
Martyrdom of St. Lawrence (1614-1615) - Marble, 66 x 108 cm, Contini Bonacossi Collection, Florence 
The Goat Amalthea with the Infant Jupiter and a Faun (1615) - Marble, Galleria Borghese, Rome 
St. Sebastian (c. 1617) - Marble, Thyssen Bornemisza Museum, Madrid 
A Faun Teased by Children (1616-1617) - Marble, height 132,1 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 
Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius (1618-1619) - Marble, height 220 cm, Galleria Borghese, Rome 
Damned Soul (1619) - Palazzo di Spagna, Rome 
Blessed Soul (1619) - Palazzo di Spagna, Rome 
Apollo and Daphne (1622-1625) - Marble, height 243 cm, Galleria Borghese, Rome 
St. Peter's Baldachin (1624) - Bronze, partly gilt, Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City 
Charity with Four Children (1627-1628) - Terracotta, height 39 cm, Museo Sacro, Musei Vaticani, Vatican 
David (1623-1624) - Marble, height 170 cm, Galleria Borghese, Rome 
Fontana della Barcaccia (1627-1628) - Marble, Piazza di Spagna, Rome 
Bust of Monsignor Pedro de Foix Montoya (c. 1621) - Marble, life-size, Santa Maria di Monserrato, Rome 
Neptune and Triton (1620) - Marble, height 182,2 cm, Victoria and Albert Museum, London 
The Rape of Proserpina (1621-1622) - Marble, height 295 cm, Galleria Borghese, Rome 
Fontana del Tritone (1624-1643) - Travertine, over life-size, Piazza Barberini, Rome 
Tomb of Pope Urban VIII (1627-1647) - Golden bronze and marble, figures larger than life-size, Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City 
Bust of Thomas Baker (1638) - Marble, height 81,6 cm, Victoria and Albert Museum, London 

"Blessed Ludovica Albertoni"
"Blessed Ludovica Albertoni"

Bust of Costanza Bonarelli (c. 1635) - Marble, height 70 cm, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence 
Charity with Two Children (1634) - Terracotta, height 41.6 cm, Museo Sacro, Musei Vaticani, Vatican City 
Saint Longinus (1631-1638) - Marble, height 450 cm, Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City 
Bust of Scipione Borghese (1632) - Marble, height 78 cm, Galleria Borghese, Rome 
Bust of Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1632) - Marble, Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City 
Fontana del Tritone (1624-1643) - Travertine, over life-size, Piazza Barberini, Rome 
Bust of Pope Urban VIII (1632-1633) - Bronze, height 100 cm, Museo Sacro, Musei Vaticani, Vatican City 
Bust of Cardinal Armand de Richelieu (1640-1641) - Marble, Musée du Louvre, Paris 
Memorial to Maria Raggi (1643) - Gilt bronze and coloured marble, Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome 
Truth (1645-1652) - Marble, height 280 cm, Galleria Borghese, Rome 
Ecstasy of St Theresa (1647-1652) - Marble, Cappella Cornaro, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome 
Loggia of the Founders (1647-1652) Marble, Cappella Cornaro, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome 
Bust of Urban VIII - Marble, Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City 
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (1648-1651) - Travertine and marble, Piazza Navona, Rome 
Daniel and the Lion (1650) - Marble, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome 
Francesco I d'Este (1650-1651) - Marble, height 107 cm, Galleria Estense, Modena 
Fountain of the Moor (1653-1654) - Marble, Piazza Navona, Rome 
Constantine (1654-1670) - Marble, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican City 
Daniel and the Lion (1655) - Terracotta, height 41.6 cm, Museo Sacro, Musei Vaticani, Vatican City 
Habakkuk and the Angel (1655) - Terracotta, height 52 cm, Museo Sacro, Musei Vaticani, Vatican City 
Altar Cross (1657-1661) - Gilt bronze corpus on bronze cross, height: corpus 43 cm, cross 185 cm, Treasury of San Pietro, Vatican City 
Throne of Saint Peter (1657-1666) - Marble, bronze, white and golden stucco, Basilica di San Pietro, Rome 
Statue of Saint Augustine (1657-1666) - Bronze, Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City 
Constantine (1663-1670) - Marble with painted stucco drapery, Scala Regia, Vatican Palace, Rome 
Standing Angel with Scroll (1667-1668) - Clay, terracotta, height: 29,2 cm, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge 
Angel with the Crown of Thorns (1667-1669) - Marble, over life-size, Sant'Andrea della Fratte, Rome 
Angel with the Superscription (1667-1669) - Marble, over life-size, Sant'Andrea della Fratte, Rome 
Elephant of Minerva (1667-1669) - Marble, Piazza di Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome 
Bust of Gabriele Fonseca (1668-1675) - Marble, over life-size, San Lorenzo in Lucina, Rome 
Equestrian Statue of King Louis XIV (1669-1670) - Terracotta, height 76 cm, Galleria Borghese, Rome 
Bust of Louis XIV (1665) - Marble, height 80 cm, Musée National de Versailles, Versailles 
Herm of St. Stephen, King of Hungary - Bronze, Cathedral Treasury, Zagreb 
Saint Jerome (1661-1663) - Marble, height 180 cm, Cappella Chigi, Duomo, Siena 
Tomb of Pope Alexander VII (1671-1678) - Marble and gilded bronze, over life-size, Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City 
Blessed Ludovica Albertoni (1671-1674) - Marble, Cappella Altieri-Albertoni, San Francesco a Ripa, Rome 

Bernini's activity as a painter was a sideline which he did mainly in his youth. Despite this his work reveals a sure and brilliant hand, free from any trace of pedantry. He studied in Rome under his father, Pietro, and soon proved a precocious infant prodigy. His work was immediately sought after by major collectors.

Saint Andrew and Saint Thomas (c. 1627) - Oil on canvas, 59 x 76 cm, National Gallery, London 
David with the Head of Goliath (1625) - Oil on canvas, 75 x 65,5 cm, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome 
Portrait of a Boy (c. 1638) - Oil on canvas, Galleria Borghese, Rome 
Self-Portrait as a Young Man (c. 1623) - Oil on canvas, Galleria Borghese, Rome 
Self-Portrait as a Mature Man (1630-1635) - Oil on canvas, Galleria Borghese, Rome 

Bernini was portrayed on two different series of former Italian notes of 50,000 lire. The picture was based on one of the artist's self-portraits.