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The works of bernini

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Last year, I had lived in Rome to study abroad for a year, and visited to tons of museums, churches and historic landmarks. I learned about the pictures and Italian artists in the medieval era. They are affecting for people who are interested in the world history or historic culture, because almost all of them were established more than hundreds of years ago and are in a good state of preservation to see still now. Vatican City, being in Rome, is the smallest country in the world and declared a World Heritage site. In this country, people would visit to Vatican museum, San Pietro cathedral and San Pietro square which were designed and established by great artists who are famous even nowadays. Gian Lorenzo Bernini, one of the greatest sculptors in the 17th century in Italy, made numerable sculptures to show his deep fate to Catholic and challenge for the existing thoughts of arts at that time, and then, established the Baroque style. He was the bravest challenger to create the new style of arts in Western Europe at that time.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini was born in 1598 in Naples, as a son of Pietro Bernini who was a sculptor. Pietro Bernini, patronaged by Cardinal Sciopione Borghese, was invited to work on projects for Pope Paul V and his family moved to Rome in 1605 when Gian Lorenzo Bernini was eight years old. Pietro created “Fountain of the Old Boat,” which is put at the foot of the Spanish Steps, and Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome, and Bernini learned about sculptures by his father’s works. He was always under the protection of Cardinals and Popes, excepting for the time of Innocence X and became one of the most popular sculptors and architects in 17th century. He began to create the Baroque style sculpture. At that time, the Renaissance style, static and based on classic balance and proportionality, dominated European artists, however, the Baroque style threw such classic ideal away and demanded dynamic, dramatic and provocative looking. As the motivation, there were the anti-religious reform movement performed by Roman Catholic church and the prosperity of French despotic monarchy supported by huge authority and fiscal instrument. This style architectures had majestic perspectives, complex and three-dimensional compositions and use of curving lines and curve surfaces. The dynamic looks made sculptures have multitudinous ideal viewing angles and they showed the energy of human forms. Rome became the center of the Baroque style sculpture. Bernini’s biography was written by Domenico Bernino and Filippo Baldunicci. Domenico Bernino is a son of Bernini and wrote ‘Vita del Cavalier Gio Lorenzo Bernino.’ Filippo Baldinucci is assumed the most influential biographers of the artists in the Baroque period. He was patronaged by the Medici and published “Vita di Gian Lorenzo Bernini” in 1682. This biography is the most useful source to engage in research of Bernini and the age of the Baroque.

First, Bernini was patronaged by the Cardinal Scipione Borghese, an Italian art collector and a member of the papal family, created a number of sculptures for him to put in the Borghese Museum. There is a series of sculptures, ‘Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius Fleeing Troy,’ (1619) ‘Pluto and Proserpina,’ (1622) ‘Apollo and Daphne’ (1624) and ‘David’ (1624). Particularly, ‘David,’ depicting the figure of a man throwing a stone, models David of Michelangelo and has Bernini’s characteristic. His body is dynamic and looks like he is going to start moving at any moment from the any side. This style broke the old traditional style of Michelangelo. After Borghese, Bernini was followed by Urban VIII and designed the Saint Peter’s Baldachin in 1624. It is made by a massive gilt bronze and placed on the tomb of Saint Peter. He also designed the giant square leading to Saint Peter’s (1567) under the Pope Alexander VII. It is his last work and he established two huge colonnades on the vacant space as the church is extending its arms to embrace people’s faith, the four massive columns and 140 statues of saints surrounding the square. There are two circles in the square, and people would see the columns as overlapping only when he stands at these points. Such sacred works showed his faith to Roman Catholicism and caught people’s attention at that time.

One of his marvelous works is the Fountain of the Four Rivers (1651), established in the Navona Square under the period of Pope Innocent X. This fountain is based on the four major rivers of the four continents in the world; the Ganges represents Asia, the Danube represents Europe, the Nile represents Africa and the Rio de la Plata represents the Americas. A monumental obelisk is standing surrounded by the four rivers and people would enjoy this work from any point of view. There is a story that this fountain is an ironic work for his rival, Francesco Borromini who was an architect of a church standing in front of the fountain, because the Pope did not ask Bernini to relate to design the church. The Nile of the fountain, facing the church, put a cloth on his face, and it is said that Bernini made him not see such awful church. In fact, this church was established five years after the construction of the fountain, and it is a fake story of Roman people. This work, however, was seen by many people and captured appreciation on Bernini and his other works from them.

In conclusion, Bernini became one of the most popular and faithful sculptors thanks to limitless patronage from the Cardinals and Pope. He created thousands of innovative sculptures which are dynamic, and more realistic than the real. He devoted his life on Roman Catholic church and established the Baroque style sculpture. As Baldinucci quoted Bernini as saying; “Those who do not sometimes go outsides the rules never go beyond them” in his biography, Gian Lorenzo Bernini was a competitor who did not care about breaking the tradition of Renaissance in the arts, and influenced many artists after his death.

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