Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680)
As no other artist in history, this greatest image maker of the century has been able to carry through a vast design on a huge scale over a long period resulting in a unity of impression that exists nowhere else in the world. - Kenneth Clarke
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Lecture: Baroque Art
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Bernini was the pre-eminent baroque artist, who worked chiefly in Rome. Eminently a sculptor, he was also an architect, painter, draftsman, designer of stage sets, fireworks displays, and funeral trappings. His father Pietro was a well known Mannerist sculptor himself, but Gian Lorenzo soon showed a particular attitude. He soon went to Rome, where his career was run. His first works were inspired by Hellenistic art; among them "The Goat Amalthea Nursing the Infant Zeus and a Young Satyr" (redated 1609, Galleria Borghese, Rome) and the "Abduction of Proserpina" (1621-22, Galleria Borghese, Rome). His first architectural projects include the facade for the church of Santa Bibiana (1624-26), Rome, and the creation of the magnificent baldachin (1624-33), or altar canopy, over the high altar of Saint Peter's Basilica. Then he conceived the tombs of Urban VIII and Alexander VII Chigi (1628-47 and 1671-78, respectively, St. Peter's Basilica). The Cathedra Petri (Chair of Saint Peter, 1657-66), in the apse of St. Peter's, is one of his masterpieces. Among his best-known sculpting works are the "Ecstasy of St Teresa" (1645-52, in the Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome) and the "David" at the Borghese Gallery. Also, he produced several allegorical busts such as the Damned Soul and Blessed Soul (both circa 1619, Palazzo di Spagna, Rome). Bernini depicts David in motion, in contrast to the famous statue of David by Michelangelo in which the character is preparing for action. The twisted torso and furrowed brow of Bernini's "David" is symptomatic of the baroque's interest in dynamic movement over high Renaissance stasis.
Also adept at architecture, he designed the piazza (great square) and colonnade of St Peter's in the Vatican (most famous work). He planned several famous palaces: Palazzo Ludovisi (now Palazzo Montecitorio, 1650) and Palazzo Chigi (1664), in Rome, and made an unexecuted design for the Louvre (presented to Louis XIV in 1665, when Bernini was in Paris). Or he designed some churches, like in Castelgandolfo and in Ariccia (near Rome). One of the small baroque churches in Rome presents an ensemble of Bernini's work: Bernini was responsible not only for the architecture at Sant'Andrea al Quirinale but also the enormous statue of St. Andrew the Apostle over the high altar. The spectacular Fountain of the Four Rivers (1648-51) in the Piazza Navona, Rome, is also a source of anecdotes about his rivalry with Borromini (whose St.Agnes church faces the fountain). Also to remember, portraits of Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1632, Galleria Borghese) and Louis XIV of France (1665, Palace of Versailles). [This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and uses material adapted in whole or in part from the Wikipedia article on Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini.]
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