Spotlight Artist: Lorenzo Bernini


One of the most important early Baroque sculptors, Bernini is best known as the creator of the Ecstasy of St. Theresa sculpture.

Synopsis

While a major figure in the world of architecture, he was, also and even more prominently, the leading sculptor of his age, credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture.[6] As one scholar has commented, "What Shakespeare is to drama, Bernini may be to sculpture: the first pan-European sculptor whose name is instantaneously identifiable with a particular manner and vision, and whose influence was inordinately powerful...."[7] In addition, he was a painter (mostly small canvases in oil) and a man of the theater: he wrote, directed and acted in plays (mostly Carnival satires), for which he designed stage sets and theatrical machinery. He produced designs as well for a wide variety of decorative art objects including lamps, tables, mirrors, and even coaches.

As architect and city planner, he designed secular buildings, churches, chapels, and public squares, as well as massive works combining both architecture and sculpture, especially elaborate public fountains and funerary monuments and a whole series of temporary structures (in stucco and wood) for funerals and festivals. His broad technical versatility, boundless compositional inventiveness and sheer skill in manipulating marble ensured that he would be considered a worthy successor of Michelangelo, far outshining other sculptors of his generation. His talent extended beyond the confines of sculpture to a consideration of the setting in which it would be situated; his ability to synthesize sculpture, painting, and architecture into a coherent conceptual and visual whole has been termed by the late art historian Irving Lavin the "unity of the visual arts".[8]

Baroque Sculpture

Baroque art wants us to be able to relate to the image in our bodies, not just in our minds. Bernini's David uses the space around it—reaching out into the space of the viewer (our space!). Bernini's David is not content—the way Michelangelo's David is—to remain separate from us. When looking at Bernini's David, we immediately start to feel what David is feeling. This sympathy is very important to Baroque art.In the High Renaissance we saw the composition in the form of a pyramid—a very stable shape. But in the Baroque era we see compositions in the shape of diagonal lines, as in Bernini's David.The diagonal line immediately suggests movement and energy and drama—very different from the immobility of the pyramid shape. (exerpt from https://www.biography.com/people/lorenzo-ghiberti-21229323)

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Essential Questions

  • Why is his work particularly significant?

  • How is baroque sculpture different than that of the high renaissance?

  • To what extent can we learn about a culture or society based on their artwork?

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