Thursday, June 28, 2012


It seems like everywhere I go in Rome, I stumble upon something by Bernini. He was a sculptor and an architect, and the catholic church's go-to guy in the 17th century. If you want to learn more about his life, wikipedia has a pretty extensive write-up and this link talks about his art.

Most churches I stumble into seem to have something by Bernini. My absolute favorite so far has been his "Blessed Ludovica", a risque marble statue housed in a church a 5 minute walk from my apartment. Unfortunately taking pictures of the statue is forbidden and there always seems to be a crabby priest around. (side note- last week I was there and took a sip of my water. The priest who has been staring at me waves his hand and says "this is a church, not a pub" after a couple attempts to explain what he's scolding me for.) So here are a few pictures I found on the internet, because I have none of my own.

Clearly, it's a little racy! It was Bernini's last full figure sculpture, and captures the death of Ludovica Albertoni. Looks much more beautiful than the death that I have seen.

A similarly racy sculpture, and perhaps better known, is St. Theresa in Ecstasy. This one I took my own pictures of. I was a little let down by this one and I think it was because I saw Ludovica first. St. Theresa is in a horribly cramped and dark and tiny baroque church, and it was really difficult to see as the sculpture is elevated way above eye level. 

At the Galleria Borghese, Cardinal Scipio Borghese used his position in the church to amass an incredible collection of art. Some of it he commissioned or bought himself, but it seemed like most of it he stole from other people by using his position to intimidate them. In my opinion, the entrance fee would be worth it even if the only piece of art I saw was Bernini's Apollo and Daphne. The sculpture is full of movement, and incredibly lifelike details. Between the pair Bernini sculpted the marble into leaves and it looks like there's more air than marble. Again, no pictures were allowed so these are off the internet. I don't think there is any way to get the full force of the piece by just seeing pictures, it was so striking in person I could have spent hours there. 

Two other Bernini masterpieces at Galleria Borghese are his David and the Rape of Persephone. The David also blew me away, he looked like he could have moved. The Rape of Persephone is famous for the way he sculpted Pluto's fingers pressing into Persephone's thigh- it is so impressive.

(yes, that's marble)

Bernini also designed many churches, funeral monuments, and public spaces. There are way too many for me to post them all, so here are a few favorites!
An elephant supporting an Egyptian obelisk outside Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Bernini carved this around age 13.

The fountain of four rivers in Piazza Navona.

The angels on Ponte Angelo

The baldacchino inside St. Peter's basilica

After all this large scale inspiring work, Bernini's grave is small and relatively hidden inside Santa Maria in Maggiore. Just an inscription in the pre-existing marble stairs to the side of the alter that says "He decorated the city".

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