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Mr. Burgher's Art Facts

Ganlorenzo Bernini

Mix Master
About Mr.B

Ganlorenzo Bernini: Dec. 7,1598- Nov. 28,1680...Italy

"If young people’s imaginations are filled only with the real, they will never produce anything that is beautiful or great."
~Ganlorenzo Bernini

Art was a family business for Ganlorenzo Bernini. His father, Pietro Bernini, was a successful Florentine sculptor. Ganlorenzo’s early training took place in his father’s workshop. The eight year old prodigy was brought before Pope Paul V and did a drawing that was so great, the Pope knew he'd be the next Michelangelo Buonarroti. Cardinal Maffeo Barberini was appointed to watch over the boy and shape his education. The push was made for Bernini to gain a stronger aptitude in sculpture, painting, and architecture. Bernini was also know to have designed stage sets, worked as a playwright, and composer of music. When Maffeo Barberini was elected Pope Urban VIII on August 6, 1623, he looked to the handsome, witty, and gifted Bernini to become his artist and architect at St. Peter's. He created tombs, statues, and the huge baldacchino over St. Peter's tomb. There were times that he took advantage of his workers. He exploited their experiences, specializations, labor, and once even had an affair with a workers wife. Bernini was infatuated with Matteo Bonarelli's wife Costanza. He even created a marble bust of her, Costanza Bonarelli. He tried to kill his brother Luigi with an iron bar (and later with a sward), when he found him with Costanza half naked. He had a servant break into her house and slash up her face with a razor. The assistant was sent to prison for assault, Costanza was sent to prison for adultory, Luigi was exiled from Rome, and Bernini was forced to get married to Caterina Tezio by the Pope. She was one of the most beautiful women in Rome. They were married when he was forty-one and she was about twenty. He was forever faithful to his wife and they had eleven children together.  
Costanza Bonarelli
1637. Marble. 31½ X27¼ X 7¾. Barberini, Rome, Italy.

As an architect, he did many projects. He created many architectural works including the façade design for the Church of St. Bibiana, Chigi Palace, and many others. He also enjoyed working with theatrical set design. This allowed him a way to experiment with architectural elements and their interaction with people.
Bernini’s most known work is his white marble sculpture Ecstacy of St. Theresa. This sculpture is based on the life of Saint Theresa of Avila, Spain who died in 1583. Her wealthy father made her choose marriage or go into the convent and become a nun. She chose the convent. She did not enjoy it all that much and became bulimic. She was very weak and nearly died of her disease. There was a party that celebrated her new health and she met a man that she could not get off her mind. She prayed about what she should do: "I heard these words, 'Now I want you to speak not with men but with angels'...An angel appeared in human form...[He] left me totally inflamed with a great love for God." Pleasure and pain are wrapped into this work. It is in the Cornaro Chapel at the Santa Maria della Vittoriain in Rome. It was created under the commission of Cardinal Federigo Cornaro. Light is most important to this sculpture, as in most of his sculptures. The natural light is allowed to pour down onto the sculpture through architectural elements and stained glass windows.
Ecstacy of St. Theresa
1644-47. White marble. 11 feet 6 inches. Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome, Italy.

In his youth, Bernini studied the many artworks of Michelangelo Buonarroti. "When I was young, Annibale Carracci advised me to make sketches from Michelangelo’s Last Judgment for at least two years, in order to understand how the muscles were coordinated.” He is remembered for his commission of the fountain in the Piazza Narvona in Rome, The Fountain of the Four Rivers. He designed many fountains in Rome. Water is a symbolic gesture that Bernini and others used to describe the Baroque time; it was a time of fluidity and closeness to nature. The four rivers represented are the Nile, Ganges, Danube, and Rio della Plata Rivers. After the fountain was unveiled, Bernini was considered the greatest sculptor since Michelangelo.
The Fountain of the Four Rivers

Bernini needed the most help with painting. He was adequate, but not an exceptional painter. He took some lessons in painting from Andrea Sacchi and Guercino Barbieri. Later he sought painting advice from Peter Paul Rubins and Diego Velásquez.

Over the course of seventy years, under eight successive Popes, as well as Louis XIV, Bernini worked to beautify Rome and decorate the Vatican with his artworks. Some of his work was to save his family name. In 1672, his brother Luigi was arrested for sodomizing a young boy in St. Peter's. To make up for his brother's actions he made The Blessed Ludovica Albertoni. He created over 200 works in his lifetime.


Mr. Mike Burgher * PO Box 247 * Dallas Center, Iowa. 50063