Thursday, March 31, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Bernini

Gian Lorenzo Bernini was perhaps the greatest name in Italian sculpture in the 17th century, since Michelangelo a century earlier. Like Michelangelo, Bernini was also skilled in other disciplines like painting and architecture, but it was his hand in sculpture that gave him such a great reputation. He learned under his father, Pietro Bernino, a Florentine sculptor in his own right. But it was Gian Lorenzo who made the name Bernini a great name in 17th century art.
Bernini was influenced by Michelangelo, but took his art of sculpture in a different direction, as he created the Baroque style of sculpture that involved more emotion and movement. Unlike Michelangelo's still figures, Bernini captured moments of suspended animation in his sculptures that was characteristic of the Baroque style of painting. For instance, we can see Michelangelo's David as a great work of classical sculpture that focuses on the figure itself. However, Bernini also did a sculpture of David that is much different. Rather than being a figure standing still and practically posing, Bernini depicts the Biblical hero as he is about to throw the stone at Goliath. My personal favorite part of this sculpture is David's facial expression, which depicts the concentration, strength, and determination to take out his adversary in a single, swift move.
Perhaps Bernini's great masterpiece is his sculpture The Ecstacy of St. Teresa, for Cappella Cornaro in Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. It is an altarpiece depicting St. Teresa of Avila in her vision as she is being pierced through the heart by an angel's arrow, representing the divine love. Bernini sculpted everything based on St. Teresa's own descripton of her vision. It is one of the most unique altarpieces, as it is more than a 2-dimensional painting, but rather a 3-dimensional scene illuminated by natural light that emerges from the space and into the worship setting, as well as bringing the worshipper into the experience of the scene.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini
The Ecstacy of St. Teresa
350 cm
c. 1647-52

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