Masters of Art: Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Bernini self portrait

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) the sculptor, the painter and the architect, was one of the great universal artistic geniuses that Italy has ever known. He is famous as a sculptor who broke the tradition of how sculpting was performed. Bernini’s work of art passed the test of time and remains one of the most beautiful creations of mankind. His statues, fountains and buildings made from Rome a Baroque city. He is actually the artist who defined the Baroque style. In his book, Franco Mormando describes Bernini as “a man driven by many passions, possessed of an explosive temper and a hearty sex drive, who lived a life as dramatic as any of his creations.”  (Bernini: His Life and His Rome, 2013).

Thanks to the superior sculpting abilities, Bernini managed to mold marble with striking natural realism. With his talent, he surpassed even the great Michelangelo, in the art of sculpting. In the early years, Bernini worked as an apprentice for his father Pietro, who was working on high profile sculpting projects. In a short time, Bernini’s work captured the attention of Pope Paul V and painter Annibale Carraci.

Because of this, he soon became the most famous sculptor of his time. Bernini sculpted masterpieces and classics and famous pieces such as: the Blessed Soul, the Damned Soul, and many others. When he was only 22, he had made large contributions to collections in Scipione’s Borghese gallery.

In 1619, he sculpted his first masterpiece: Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius. He created many more masterpieces as he aged, and many of his pieces became world-famous for many reasons. One of his most famous works was David. It was made from 1623-1624. It shows David right before he throws a stone that would end Goliath’s life. It is mainly famous because of the detail of the sculpture. Many people also praise and love the anger and the emotion that he captured and sculpted into David’s face.

In 1629, he became the lead architect for St. Peter’s Basilica. He contributed and designed the Baldacchino and the Cathedra Petri. Bernini also had his own vision of the design and feel of the great building.

Bernini's Baldacchino in San Pietro

As a painter, he had the ability to create realistic and life-like portraits. The reason his paintings seemed to stand out among all the others that were created was because he seemed to have a way to harness and show character. His most famous portrait was ironically a self-portrait which is now shown at Windsor Castle. The portrait shows him as having a gaze that is unrelenting, and penetratingly deep eyes. This painting is perhaps his most famous work of art, and may surpass even some of his sculptures.

However, though he was a very accomplished painter and architect, there is no doubt that sculpting was by far his specialty. He reshaped the way sculpting was viewed by the world. His pieces generally travel from museum to museum, the location ever changing. However, many of his sculptures still stand in Rome where they were originally placed. Also a lot of his own architectural work can be viewed in their original glory as well. But his painting and smaller sculptures are always changing and bouncing from museum to museum. Most popular and famous museums get and keep the works for one to three months at a time. Some of his larger works would be present at the exhibits as well.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini was by far the best sculpture of his generation. Even his closest rivals he managed to blow away with his sculptures. He redefined the way sculpting was commonly looked at. Before his time period, most sculptures replicated the style of Michelangelo, but he forever changed and inspired the newer western style sculpting. He was also talented in many other areas of art, and though not as well-known for it, he was a great architect, and he was very good at painting portraits as well.

All in all, Bernini is definitely a master of art. He had extreme skill and talent, and his works are shown off in multiple popular museums worldwide. He lived a long life, and when he finally passed in 1680, he and his works of art were remembered for many generations to come.

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