Bernini pioneered a Baroque style of sculpture which highlighted human emotion and sensuality. Furthermore, his revolutionary approach revolutionized how sculpture busts were displayed.
He popularized the practice of “speaking likeness,” in which he captured their subjects mid-action or mid-sentence rather than in static poses to give an accurate portrayal of their true personalities.
Apollo and Daphne
Apollo and Daphne by Gian Lorenzo Bernini is widely considered his masterpiece of Baroque sculpture, having been commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, one of the powerful members of the papal family who supported Bernini during his artistic career.
Ovid’s Metamorphoses recounts the tale of Daphne, a beautiful young nymph who falls madly in love with Apollo, but her intense feelings lead her father, Peneus – an important river god – to make her into a laurel tree instead.
However, Daphne soon grew disillusioned with her tree form and eventually sought help from her father for assistance. Out of mercy he made the change for Daphne transforming her body to one befitting of a content spinster.
At the height of Baroque art’s popularity, wealthy patrons commissioned young artists to produce works that stood out from the crowd and could be seen by all. Their goal was to depict motion with rich contrasts that left audiences amazed (click here to learn more about Baroque).
Bernini depicts a moment of rapid transformation in Apollo and Daphne. With masterful craftsmanship, Daphne undergoes a shift from fear to relief as her hands transform into branches, her neck stiffens into bark, and she transforms into a tree.
A striking piece of sculpture depicting the moment when a woman manages to flee from her lover. An exquisite work of art which captures this fleeting moment in time and brings the legend of Apollo and Daphne alive.
The artist began crafting this sculptural group in 1622, beginning his work over three years. This sculpture represents one of four groups that demonstrate his artistic style; others being Aeneas and Anchises, The Rape of Proserpina, and David.
The Damned Soul
Bernini was renowned sculptor renowned for his innovative artistic techniques and groundbreaking innovations in sculpture. He introduced a new form of artwork he termed Baroque; its works could be experienced through all five senses and used to augment religious experiences.
Bernini produced an array of works over his long career, spanning sculpture to paintings and architecture. He wrote and directed plays which greatly impacted his artistic style; furthermore he was known for being a man of action with an incredible flair for drama – this led him to design stage sets and theatrical machinery as part of this venture.
Bernini’s sculpture depicting Proserpina being led into Pluto’s underworld is one of his most well-known and important works of art. Carved out of marble, this statue stands as an outstanding work of art.
This masterpiece of sculpture showcases its artist’s impressive ability to depict human bodies in an expressive and sensuous fashion, making a distinctive mark upon art history. Departing from previous Mannerist styles, its sensuous depiction opens a whole new chapter.
This statue was commissioned by the Spanish Embassy and is an exquisite piece of craftsmanship made out of marble with an extremely polished surface that makes it look luxurious. Additionally, its face bears an intense and angered expression which adds further detail.
This work of art presented a daunting challenge to its sculptor, who worked diligently in order to complete it. He had to find an accurate way of depicting both anguished souls in distress while also depicting ones headed for heaven – he did this at just twenty years old and with extraordinary perseverance!
The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa of Avila
Teresa of Avila, a Spanish nun and writer, was an influential figure of Catholic Counter-Reformation. Known for her devotion to God and desire for spiritual union with Him, Teresa became known as one of the leading figures during that period.
Throughout her lifetime, she published numerous works about spirituality and monastic life – such as her Autobiography and Interior Mansions – as well as founding several houses for Carmelite friars and nuns.
Teresa wrote of an extraordinary mystical experience where an angel with golden lance pierced her heart, both painfully and rapturously. Gian Lorenzo Bernini depicts this vision of divine love with its accompanying joy as depicted in The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa sculpture.
Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, created for Rome’s Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, is one of his best-known baroque sculptures and also includes elements of painting and architecture he designed himself.
While The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa remains highly accurate to its source text, it also embraces creative interpretations and metaphorical interpretations to reveal Teresa’s sexually charged vision in her swooning expression and lax pose.
Instead of restrained pleats, her gowns now exhibit wrinkles which emanate erotica and bring to life the erotic experience of her spiritual moment, in stark contrast to more realistic depictions seen in earlier works by this artist.
Teresa collapses in an intense state of trance with her head back and eyes closed, appearing to slip away under the weight of her heavy robe while bronze rays rain down from behind, seemingly suggesting she has reached heaven or one of the clouds above.
The Bust of Costanza
Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s groundbreaking bust of Costanza Bonarelli marked a new era in European sculpture. Busts had traditionally been created for tombs; but Bernini transformed this form into an art form that featured informal portraits of living people.
The Bust of Costanza can be seen at Florence’s Museo del Bargello and depicts a young woman with lips slightly parted and eyes fixed on an abstract point in the distance. Bernini created an intensely emotive portrait which shows his passion for his subject matter.
Sarah McPhee’s groundbreaking study restores Costanza from being just another footnote in Bernini’s biography to become an intricate female protagonist who navigated both artistic and social environments of seventeenth-century Rome. Drawing upon archival sources like Costanza’s will, parish records, and notice of her dowry, McPhee unearths secrets about Costanza’s life and familial lineage.
She situates her portrait within a grand poetic tradition of poet and his lover, from Petrarch and Laura to Marino and his wife. Additionally, she shows that the artist’s sensuality in this work was not solely an outcome of artistic skill.
Bernini’s artistic development as a painter and sculptor led to him exploring this area of creativity, rather than drawing inspiration from earlier Renaissance-era paintings or Ancient Greek and Roman sculptures. Instead, his talent as a sculptor was fostered through observation of real people and places. Bernini often depicted his subjects “in the round,” meaning that they could be seen from multiple angles and perspectives at once; this allowed viewers to grasp an overall impression.
The Fall of Proserpina
Gian Lorenzo Bernini is one of the most acclaimed sculptors ever, famous for his incredible skill at carving marble into masterpieces still enjoyed today.
His early sculptures pay homage to Michelangelo while also possessing their own distinct style. These early works stand out among other works by the artist due to their distinctive shading and realism that make them standout from similar pieces.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini created The Rape of Proserpina (also referred to as The Fall of Proserpine) during his Baroque period work and this intriguing and captivating sculpture depicts Proserpina being taken away by Pluto.
Roman mythology tells the tale of Proserpine being kidnapped by Pluto who became passionately infatuated with her. When Proserpine protested to her mother Ceres for help, Ceres came too late; rather than turning back time she instead caused an irreparable damage by making the earth dry up and harvest impossible crops again.
Proserpine was devastated by this event and soon lost faith in God; upon her return home with her mother she found peace and happiness again.
Bernini had many admirers who appreciated his sculptures, such as Annibale Carracci and Pope Paul V. Furthermore, Bernini joined the Neopolitan Art Association which contributed greatly to his success and helped further establish himself.
At this point in his career, he was profoundly impacted by his studies of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures at the Vatican. These studies allowed him to develop an innovative sculpting style which focused on the tactile quality of marble.
Bernini’s sculptures possess an exquisite sensuality and realism, which makes them enjoyable works to view. Additionally, his unique sculpting technique allowed him to capture emotions of his subjects with incredible accuracy.