Gian Lorenzo Bernini



Bernini was a man of versatile genius: a painter, sculptor, architect, playwrite and inventor of various devices and stage machinary. He began his life in Naples in 1598 and when the family moved to Rome, went to work in his father's sculpture workshop. Part of Bernini's good fortune was that he grew up in what was, historically, an exceptional moment. He experienced a period of great cultural development in a city unique in all the world: Rome. Bernini soon became his father's pupil, helping to carry out the completion of the many pieces commissioned by the cardinals to decorate the Vatican.

During his lifetime, Bernini saw the investiture of eight popes, and in over seventy years of frenetic activity, he worked for all of them. The first to appreciate the artist's extraordinary talent was the Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the rich and powerful nephew of Pope Paolo V, a great patron of the arts and collector. It was Scipione who entrusted Bernini with his first commissioned works, when the young man had just learned to use chisel and drill in his father's bottega. The artist's determined and ambitious nature drove him to compete with Michelangelo and the artists of antiquity.

In Bernini's days in the 1600's, Rome was one huge construction site. Pope Paolo V Borghese ordered the enlargement of St Peter's and Bernini created the cathedral's impressive colonnade, a supreme architectural achievement. It is estimated that at least 200 artists, decorators and architects must have been working under Bernini on the site. The colonnade at St. Peter's is the culmination of Bernini's art, perfected over the span of his long working life.

The construction of the Ponte Sant'Angelo, intended to provide St Peter's entrance with a splendid "Way of the Cross", was entrusted to Bernini by Pope Clement IX.

In 1623, Pope Urban VIII commissioned Bernini to begin work on the very first of Rome's fountains, signalling the trust placed in him by the Vatican. Indeed, Urban VIII named Bernini superintendent of the Piazza Navona fountains. During this period, Bernini carried out construction of numerous fountains throughout Rome: La Barcaccia in the Piazza di Spagna, Il Tritone in Piazza Barberini, the Fontana di Trevi and the Fontana dei Fiumi in Piazza Navona.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini created "The abduction of Persephoneby Pluto", sculpture group, at only 24 years of age, managing masterfully to portray Pluto's violent impetus and Persephone's tearful desperation with incredible skill.
As she tries desperately to escape, Pluto has her firmly grasped by the thighs.

With the "David" Bernini represents the David, tensed for his confrontation with Goliath. It seems Bernini copied his own image in a mirror to more accurately portray David's concentration and heightened emotion as he launches his stone.

In 1624, the Cardinal Scipione Borghese commissioned Bernini to interpret the mythical story of Apollo e Dafne in marble.
Bernini masterfully captured the moment in which Apollo pursues the nymph Daphne, who has rejected him.
In the exact moment that the god's hand touches the object of his love, Daphne's body is transformed into a laurel tree. Her body becomes bark, her hair and hands branches and leaves. This piece is the finest example of Bernini's "pictoral sculpture".