Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680)

The Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini was a famous architect, sculptor and painter, but also a stage designer, a poet and a dramatist. His works made him one of the major artists of all times and definitely the most important figure of the Roman Baroque.

Self portrait, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1630-1635

image source: http://www.artble.com/imgs/2/2/a/15148/gian_lorenzo_bernini.jpg

ABOUT HIS LIFE

Born in Naples in 1598, his long and successful artistic career lasted from his teens until his death in 1680. Following his early success in Rome, where he worked for the city’s most powerful families and the popes, his fame spread across the whole of Europe. His royal patrons included King Charles I of England and King Louis XIV of France. A sculptor, architect, painter, stage designer, poet, and dramatist, Bernini created dynamic monuments that combined the arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture in an integrated whole.

info source: https://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/2000/baroque/indepth2.shtm

Self-portrait, Bernini, 1630

What were is major works?

During the pontificate of Urban VIII, he realized the St. Peter Baldachin in St. Peter’s Basilica, a sculpted gilded-bronze canopy, which was the first truly Baroque monument. It was intended to mark the place of Saint Peter’s tomb underneath. The structure is architecturally imposing; its height, for example, was greater than that of many buildings. But the execution relied primarily on sculptural gifts. Bernini was able to make hard material seem soft and malleable, giving static form a dynamic aspect.

info source: http://www.ovo.com/en/st-peter-s-baldachin/

St. Peter Baldachin, Bernini, 1623-1634

image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St._Peter%27s_Baldachin_by_Bernini.jpg

Bernini’s most spectacular public monuments date from the mid-1640s to the 1660s. The Fountain of the Four Rivers, which was commissioned in 1648 by Pope Innocent X, is located in the Piazza Navona in Rome. It was a grandiose monument to the power and glory of the pope and his family. It supports an ancient Egyptian obelisk. The surrounding marble sculptures represent the four major rivers of the four continents that were recognized at that time.

source: http://www.artble.com/artists/gian_lorenzo_bernini/sculpture/fountain_of_the_four_rivers

The Fountain of the Four Rivers, Bernini, 1648-1651, Piazza Navona, Rome

image source: http://www.italianways.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/IW_Fontana4Fiumi_5.jpg

The greatest single example of Bernini’s mature art is the Cornaro Chapel in Santa Maria della Vittoria. Its focal point is his sculpture of The Ecstasy of St. Teresa (1645–52), a depiction of a mystical experience of the great Spanish Carmelite reformer Teresa of Ávila. Its spatial construction, use of light, trompe l’oeil mural painting, along with the marble, gilded wood and gilt bronze materials used, is a perfect vehicle for such an expression of piety.

info source: http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/sculpture/ecstasy-of-saint-teresa.htm

The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, Bernini, 1647-1652, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome

image source: http://www.learner.org/courses/globalart/assets/non_flash_386/work_098.jpg

Bernini’s greatest architectural achievement is the colonnade enclosing the square before St. Peter’s Basilica. The colonnades were built in 1660 and consist of four rows of columns with in total 284 Doric columns and 88 pilasters. 140 statues were installed on top of the colonnades, all created by Bernini and his students. They depict popes, martyrs, evangelists and other religious figures. Bernini’s talent is best exemplified when looking at the placement of the columns. The columns are “radially aligned“, as though set along the spokes of a wheel whose hubs are points located between the fountains and the obelisk.

info source: http://honorsaharchive.blogspot.it/2005/09/st-peters-piazza.html

info source: http://www.aviewoncities.com/rome/piazzasanpietro.htm

St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter Basilica, Rome

image source: https://www.learner.org/courses/globalart/work/183/zoom.html

The Cathedra Petri structure, also known as the Chair of St. Peter or Throne of St. Peter, was designed to display the chair on which, according to ancient tradition, St. Peter sat and taught Roman Christians. Pope Alexander VII had the ivory-covered chair put into the gigantic bronze cathedra, with the statues of the Doctors of the Church, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine of the Roman Church and St. Athanasius and St. John Chrysostom of the Greek Church. The religious significance is extremely clear. The Doctors of the Church were always consistent with Peter’s teachings as they expounded theological doctrine.

info source: http://stpetersbasilica.info/Docs/GuideSPB3.htm#Cathedra

The Chair of St. Peter, Bernini, 1657–66, St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome

image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chair_of_Saint_Peter#/media/File:Rom,_Vatikan,_Petersdom,_Cathedra_Petri_(Bernini)_4.jpg

How can we identify Bernini’s Style?

  • Bernini, perhaps more than any other artist of the time period, was responsible for defining the Baroque style of sculpture.
  • Whether in his sculpture, architecture, or multimedia works, Bernini’s pieces can always be recognized by their minute attention to detail, grandiose theatricality, and ornate design.
  • A high percentage of his work was religious by theme.
  • Bernini created swirling, dynamic compositions in his sculptures which were meant to be viewed from all directions, inviting the viewer to be a part of the scene.
  • His figures are posed on diagonals, characteristic of Baroque sculpture.
  • Bernini paid texture a great deal of attention in his sculptural works. his works are more than a visual experience; they are also a tactile experience.
  • His figures are always somewhat idealized.
  • A work of Bernini’s is never static. There is always the illusion and sense of movement.
  • Through the combination of sculpture, architecture and painting he created a new idea of what an artwork could encompass.
  • Bernini used a method of casting called the lost-wax method.

info source: http://www.artble.com/artists/gian_lorenzo_bernini/more_information/style_and_technique

The columns of the Baldachin

image source: http://www.artble.com/imgs/4/6/6/332186/692227.jpg