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