Gian Lorenzo Bernini Sculpture

Gian Lorenzo Bernini Sculpture

Bernini often came under fire for his exuberant artistic styles; nonetheless he is widely recognized as being the inventor of “Baroque.” Bernini used passion as his driving force to explore religious and mythological subjects to exuberantly convey human feelings through artworks that made an impressionful statement about human emotion and sentimentality.

This exhibition displays the sculptures created by an accomplished sculptor that express theological redemption and strong subjective experience.

Lifelike Figures

Bernini excelled at depicting mythological gods and saints with the ability to make them seem alive in real life; this was his greatest strength as an artist and was central to his success. Bernini depicted figures with their own distinct features and emotions while paying close attention to every detail that brought his pieces to life.

Bernini was also known for creating movement in his pieces. This technique typifies the Baroque style that flourished during the 17th century; Bernini wasn’t its inventor but rather popularized it through his sculptures which often combined Renaissance aesthetics with its more contemporary emphasis on movement and drama.

Bernini was also an innovator when it came to treating marble sculptures. He frequently cut into their surfaces in order to give his works three-dimensional qualities that rivaled anything previously seen in sculpture art. A prime example of his use of this technique can be seen in The Rape of Proserpina which depicts an eventful kidnapping scene; Bernini used his skillful stone transformation technique so Pluto’s fingers could slip beneath Proserpina’s soft flesh while her muscles and tendons are stretched as far as physical reality would allow, further contributing realism to his work.

Saint Teresa of Avila stands as another striking example of this innovative use of marble, as seen in her portrait bust by sculptor Daniel Haak. Haak captures her look of ecstasy and body beauty so accurately that she almost seems to be ascending into heaven! Additionally, pleats from her robe were carved directly onto the marble surface enhancing its dynamic quality.

Bernini was best-known for his monumental sculptures, yet occasionally created smaller works such as busts. These were usually commissions from popes or kings he found hard to refuse – something Bernini often couldn’t refuse them.

Dramatic Effects

Bernini’s sculptures typically depicted the main figures, yet his pieces also displayed drama and movement through exuberant movement, expressive facial expressions, and feats of technical mastery that moved audiences as deeply as they moved Bernini himself. He believed his art should move spectators as much as it moved him himself while creating them.

Getty’s Getty exhibit depicts Saint Teresa of Avila with wide open eyes and parted lips, glowing with joyous divine grace as her hair flutters freely as she gazes upward. Through realism, the sculptor was able to give Saint Teresa soft features while portraying both holiness and sensuality simultaneously.

Bernini’s dramatic depictions of the human body were revolutionary for his time. He was one of the first sculptors to depict it moving, as well as being among the first to capture what is now known as speaking likenesses–capturing people at action or at an instant of speech utterance. Alongside his virtuosity, Bernini understood art’s emotional and psychological effects on viewers – something which he leveraged when creating religious works.

Bernini dedicated much of his career to depicting the most emotive scenes from his subjects’ tales. His depictions of biblical events such as David defeating Goliath or Christ raising Lazarus from death are prime examples. Additionally, he was known for his theatrical tableaus.

Bernini was widely celebrated for his artistic success, yet not without controversy. Toward the end of his life he earned himself the reputation as an entertainment showman; many accused him of using his skills to manipulate and please audiences. Rumors swirled about whether or not he had an affair with Costanza de’ Medici before she would eventually forgive him for what had transpired between them; ultimately a fine was issued;


Bernini’s work is known for its impressive use of texture. Bernini used marble manipulation techniques to achieve three-dimensionality in his figures, drawing them closer to life through texture. Together with his attention to detail and skillful manipulation of marble, these textures help convey emotion and physical movement of his subjects.

Bernini’s masterful use of texture can be seen most vividly in two companion sculptures that represent Aeneas and Anchises from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. His intention was to show their tragic love story; using textures such as skin, hair and clothing sculpting he conveys their emotions as they struggle against Cerberus’ clutches and desire for escape.

Bernini’s elegant expressions and dramatic effects won him favor among popes and other nobles, yet his sensual, overly lifelike style shocked connoisseurs of his period. Bernini took humanistic Baroque art one step further by pushing its emotive style further – creating art far more scandalous than anything produced during Renaissance art periods.

His religious sculptures stood out, depicting religious figures with more realistic features and physical presence than had been achieved previously. One piece, The Blessed Soul, featured an anguished figure with a twisted face that even required him to cut open his arm in order to create this anguished expression.

Bernini was known for creating sculptures that captured the most emotionally compelling moment in a narrative, such as his depictions of David at battle with Goliath from the Bible. Furthermore, his focus often included how subjects interact with their surroundings within his sculptures to add further drama and suspense.

Scipione Borghese’s commission of over-lifesize marble statues for his villa in Rome marked Bernini’s debut as a novel sculptor of his generation and cemented Bernini’s fame as one of its leading representatives. One such piece, Apollo and Daphne (1622-24; Galleria Borghese Rome), showcased Bernini’s mastery of Baroque transformation themes by showing soft human flesh turning into leaves or bark, while depicting flying tresses transformed into laurel trees; subtle variations in marble textures were used to achieve these effects.


Bernini’s highly realistic depictions of human figures helped pave the way for Baroque art. Combining his skills as a sculptor, architect, and painter he achieved more dramatic effects in his works than other masters had attempted before him – famous for capturing emotional intensity that moved and amazed audiences alike.

Bernini’s sculpture reflected his interest in both theological redemption and subjective experience, as well as his skill at depicting life force in three dimensions. One especially sensuous work by Bernini was Ecstasy of Saint Teresa – drawing focus to her figure with exuberant movement and emotive facial expressions similar to Carlo Maderno who used similar techniques when creating his works.

Bernini’s work illustrates his ability to capture polarities with this artwork, depicting a soul with its face contorted into an agonized or terrified expression, in contrast with its counterpart bust of a Blessed Soul. Together they demonstrate his point that humans can experience both feelings simultaneously; two extremes on opposite ends of the spectrum.

In this piece, Pluto captures Proserpina by her hips and thighs as she desperately struggles to escape him. Screams from Proserpina can be heard throughout as she desperately tries to break free – while her helplessness to escape is captured with striking detail by the artist who also depicts three-headed Cerberus dog as a further measure of drama and horror in this scene.

Bernini was one of the greatest artists ever. Devoting his entire career to art, Bernini worked seven hours every day and often produced multiple pieces in one year despite lacking formal training as an architect. Rising quickly through Rome’s artistic community without formal architectural training helped Bernini revolutionize both style and perception of sculpture.

Bernini was not only known for his sculpture work, but was also an accomplished painter and designer of theatrical scenery and machinery. The Getty Museum exhibition showcases all these talents.