- Also known as
Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini
primary name: Bernini, Giovanni Lorenzo
other name: Gianlorenzo Bernini
- individual; sculptor/medallist; architect; Roman; Italian; Male
- Life dates
- Sculptor and architect: Naples, Rome. b. Naples 1598, d. Rome 1680. Bernini trained with his father, the sculptor Pietro Bernini (1562-1629). In 1605 or 1606 the family moved from Naples to Rome, where Gianlorenzo was to work for the rest of his life, with the exception of several commissions in the surrounding area and a visit to France in 1665. Pietro Bernini introduced his son to such powerful Roman patrons as the Borghese and the Barberini: Gianlorenzo received his first commission, for a statue of St Sebastian, in 1615-16 from Maffeo Barberini, who in 1623 ascended to the papal throne as Urban VIII. Under the patronage of this pope, Bernini became the leading artist in Rome. The façade of the church of S. Bibiena, designed in 1624-6 together with a statue of its patron saint, was one of his earliest architectural works. Upon the death of Carlo Maderno in 1629, Bernini was appointed architect of St Peter's and continued the work, which he had begun in 1624, on the 'baldacchino' over the high altar (completed in 1634). He also designed the sculptural redecoration of the piers of the crossing (see 1946,0713.691).
During the reign of Innocent X (1644-55), who preferred the work of Alessandro Algardi (q.v.), Bernini was forced to turn more to private patrons: the 'Rapture of St Teresa' for the Cornaro family chapel in S. Maria della Vittoria dates from this period. In 1655 he received a public commission for the fountains in the Piazza Navona. However, the next pope, Alexander VII, reinstated Bernini, employing him mainly on architectural projects, such as the design of the colonnade around the square of St Peter (from 1657; see Oo,3.5) and the Scala Regia (1663-6). The decoration of the apse of St Peter's with the sculptural group of the 'Fathers of the Church' supporting the 'Cathedra Petri' also dates from this period and is probably Bernini's most famous work (see also 1946,0713.689a). Throughout his career Bernini sculpted many portrait busts, in which he achieved the new naturalism of contemporary painting, successfully capturing fleeting facial expressions.
Bernini executed many studies for his sculptural and architectural projects, usually sketches in chalk or pen and brush drawings, which retain a sense of immediacy and directness. He also excelled at drawing chalk portraits (see 1897,0410.10 and 1980.0126.69) as well as making caricatures of his contemporaries.
Bernini was the outstanding artist of the Italian Baroque and probably its greatest formative influence. His sculptures introduced a new emotional intensity and sense of theatricality, with unbounded dramatic gestures, which envelop the surrounding space. Characteristic also is a combination of sculpture and architecture, as seen, for instance, in his fountain projects. For the first time the fall of light was made an integral part of the sculpture, such as in the apse decorations for St Peter's.
- Turner 1999