Passion For Art

>>>>>Bernini

Early years
Bernini’s career began under his father, Pietro Bernini, a Florentine sculptor of some talent who ultimately moved to Rome. The young prodigy worked so diligently that he earned the praise of the painter Annibale Carracci and the patronage of Pope Paul V and soon established himself as a wholly independent sculptor. He was strongly influenced by his close study of the antique Greek and Roman marbles in the Vatican, and he also had an intimate knowledge of High Renaissance painting of the early 16th century. His study of Michelangelo is revealed in the St Sebastian (c. 1617), carved for Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, who was later Pope Urban VIII and Bernini’s greatest patron.

Bernini’s early works attracted the attention of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, a member of the reigning papal family. Under his patronage, Bernini carved his first important life-size sculptural groups. The series shows Bernini’s progression from the almost haphazard single view of Aeneas, Anchises and Ascanius Fleeing Troy (1619; Borghese Gallery, Rome) to strong frontality in Pluto and Proserpina (1621-22; Borghese Gallery) and then to the hallucinatory vision of Apollo and Daphne (1622-24; Borghese Gallery), which was intended to be viewed from one spot as if it were a relief. In his David (1623-24; Borghese Gallery), Bernini depicts the figure casting a stone at an unseen adversary. Several portrait busts that Bernini executed during this period, including that of Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1623-24), show a new awareness of the relationship between head and body and display an ability to depict fleeting facial expressions with acute realism. These marble works show an unparalleled virtuosity in carving that obdurate material to achieve the delicate effects usually found only in bronze sculptures. Bernini’s sensual awareness of the surface textures of skin and hair and his novel sense of shading broke with the tradition of Michelangelo and marked the emergence of a new period in the history of Western sculpture.

Patronage of Urban VIII
With the pontificate of Urban VIII (1623-44), Bernini entered a period of enormous productivity and artistic development. Urban VIII urged his protégé to paint and to practice architecture. His first architectural work was the remodeled Church of Santa Bibiana in Rome. At the same time, Bernini was commissioned to build a symbolic structure over the tomb of St Peter in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The result is the famous immense gilt-bronze baldachin executed between 1624 and 1633. Its twisted columns derive from the early Christian columns that had been used in the altar screen of Old St Peter’s. Bernini’s most original contribution to the final work is the upper framework of crowning volutes flanked by four angels that supports the orb and cross. The baldachin is perfectly proportioned to its setting, and one hardly realizes that it is as tall as a four-story building. Its lively outline moving upward to the triumphant crown, its dark colour heightened with burning gold, give it the character of a living organism. An unprecedented fusion of sculpture and architecture, the baldachin is the first truly Baroque monument. It ultimately formed the centre of a programmatic decoration designed by Bernini for the interior of St Peter’s.
Bernini next supervised the decoration of the four piers supporting the dome of St Peter’s with colossal statues, though only one of the latter, St Longinus, was designed by him. He also made a series of portrait busts of Urban VIII, but the first bust to achieve the quality of his earlier portraits is that of his great patron, Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1632; Borghese Gallery). The cardinal is shown in the act of speaking and moving, and the action is caught at a moment that seems to reveal all the characteristic qualities of the subject.
Bernini’s architectural duties increased after the death of Carlo Maderno in 1629, when Bernini became architect of St Peter’s and of the Palazzo Barberini. By this time he was not only executing works himself but also having to rely on assistance from others as the number of his commissions grew. He was successful in organizing his studio and planning his work so that sculptures and ornamentations produced by a team actually seem to be all of a piece. Bernini’s work, then and always, was also shaped by his fervent Roman Catholicism (he attended mass every day and took communion twice a week). He would agree with the formulations of the Council of Trent (1545-63) that the purpose of religious art was to teach and inspire the faithful and to serve as propaganda for the Roman Catholic church. Religious art should always be intelligible and realistic, and, above all, it should serve as an emotional stimulus to piety. The development of Bernini’s religious art was largely determined by his conscientious efforts to conform to those principles.
Under Urban VIII Bernini began to produce new and different kinds of monuments – tombs and fountains. The tomb of Urban VIII (1628-47; St Peter’s, Rome) shows the pope seated with his arm raised in a commanding gesture, while below him are two white marble figures representing the Virtues. Bernini also designed a revolutionary series of small tomb memorials, of which the most impressive is that of Maria Raggi (1643). But his fountains are his most obvious contribution to the city of Rome. His first, the Barcaccia in the Piazza di Spagna (1627-29), is analogous to the baldachin in its fusion of sculpture and architecture. The Triton Fountain in the Piazza Barberini (1642-43) is a dramatic transformation of a Roman architectonic fountain – the superposed basins of the traditional geometric piazza fountain appearing to have come alive. Four dolphins raise a huge shell supporting the sea god, who blows water upward out of a conch.
Bernini’s early architectural projects, however, were not invariably successful. In 1637 he began to erect campaniles, or bell towers, over the facade of St Peter’s. But, in 1646, when their weight began to crack the building, they were pulled down, and Bernini was temporarily disgraced.

Patronage of Innocent X and Alexander VII
Bernini’s most spectacular public monuments date from the mid-1640s to the 1660s. The Fountain of the Four Rivers in Rome’s Piazza Navona (1648-51) supports an ancient Egyptian obelisk over a hollowed-out rock, surmounted by four marble figures symbolizing four major rivers of the world. This fountain is one of his most spectacular works.
The greatest single example of Bernini’s mature art is the Cornaro Chapel in Santa Maria della Vittoria, in Rome, which completes the evolution begun early in his career. The chapel, commissioned by Cardinal Federigo Cornaro, is in a shallow transept in the small church. Its focal point is his sculpture of The Ecstasy of St Teresa (1645-52), a depiction of a mystical experience of the great Spanish Carmelite reformer Teresa of Ávila. In representing Teresa’s vision, during which an angel pierced her heart with a fiery arrow of divine love, Bernini followed Teresa’s own description of the event. The sculptured group, showing the transported saint swooning in the void, covered by cascading drapery, is revealed in celestial light within a niche over the altar, where the architectural and decorative elements are richly joined and articulated. At left and right, in spaces resembling opera boxes, numerous members of the Cornaro family are found in spirited postures of conversation, reading, or prayer. The Cornaro Chapel carries Bernini’s ideal of a three-dimensional picture to its apex. The figures of St Teresa and the angel are sculptured in white marble, but the viewer cannot tell whether they are in the round or merely in high relief. The natural daylight that falls on the figures from a hidden source above and behind them is part of the group, as are the gilt rays behind. The Ecstasy of St Teresa is not sculpture in the conventional sense. Instead, it is a framed pictorial scene made up of sculpture, painting, and light that also includes the worshiper in a religious drama.
In his later years, the growing desire to control the environments of his statuary led Bernini to concentrate more and more on architecture. Of the churches he designed after completing the Cornaro Chapel, the most impressive is that of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale (1658-70) in Rome, with its dramatic high altar, soaring dome, and unconventionally sited oval plan. But Bernini’s greatest architectural achievement is the colonnade enclosing the piazza before St Peter’s Basilica. The chief function of the large space was to hold the crowd that gathered for the papal benediction on Easter and other special occasions. Bernini planned a huge oval attached to the church by a trapezoidal forecourt – forms that he compared to the encircling arms of the mother church. The freestanding colonnades were a novel solution to the need for a penetrable enclosure. The piazza guides the visitor toward the church and counterbalances the overly wide facade of St Peter’s. Bernini’s oval encloses a space centred on the Vatican obelisk, which had been moved before the church by Sixtus V in 1586. Bernini moved an older fountain by Maderno into the long axis of the piazza and built a twin on the other side to make a scenographic whole. The analogies to Bernini’s oval plan of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale are fascinating, as are the differences in meaning and function.
Bernini’s most spectacular religious decoration is the Throne of St Peter, or the Cathedra Petri (1657-66), a gilt-bronze cover for the medieval wooden throne (cathedra) of the pope. Bernini’s task was not only to make a decorative cover for the chair but also to create a meaningful goal in the apse of St Peter’s for the pilgrim’s journey through the great church. The seat is seemingly supported by four imposing bronze figures representing theological doctors of the early church: Saints Ambrose, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, and Augustine. Above, a golden glory of angels on clouds and rays of light emanates from the Dove of the Holy Spirit, which is painted on an oval window. The cathedra was produced about the same time as the piazza, and the contrast between these two works shows Bernini’s versatility. Both works were done for the Chigi pope, Alexander VII (1655-67), who was one of Bernini’s greatest patrons. The tomb that Bernini designed for Alexander VII (1671-78; St Peter’s) was largely executed by his pupils.

In addition to his large works, Bernini continued to produce a few portrait busts. The first of these, of Francesco I d’Este, duke of Modena (1650-51; Este Gallery and Museum, Modena), culminates his revolution in portraiture. Much of the freedom and spontaneity of the bust of Cardinal Scipione Borghese is kept, but it is united with a heroic pomp and grandiose movement that portray the ideals of the Baroque age as much as the man.

Trip to France

Bernini went to Paris in 1665, in what was his only prolonged absence from Rome. The trip was made in response to invitations that for many years had been extended to him by King Louis XIV, and the purpose was the design of a new French royal residence. By this time, Bernini was so famous that crowds lined the streets of each city along the route to watch him pass. His initial reception in Paris was equally triumphant, but he soon offended his sensitive hosts by imperiously praising the art and architecture of Italy at the expense of that of France. His statements made him unpopular at the French court and were to some degree responsible for the rejection of his designs for the Louvre. The only relic of Bernini’s visit to France is his great bust of Louis XIV, a linear, vertical, and stable portrait, in which the Sun King gazes out with godlike authority. The image set a standard for royal portraits that lasted 100 years.

Later years

Bernini’s late works in sculpture are inevitably overshadowed by his grandiose projects for St Peter’s, but a few of them are of outstanding interest. For the Chigi Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome, he carved two groups, Daniel in the Lions’ Den and Habakkuk and the Angel (1655-61). These works show the beginnings of his late style: elongation of the body, expressive gesture, and simplified yet emphatic emotional expression. The same characteristics are already found in the figures supporting the Throne of St Peter and culminate in the moving Angels for the Sant’Angelo Bridge in Rome, which Bernini redecorated with the help of assistants between 1667 and 1671. Pope Clement IX (1667-69) so prized the Angels carved by Bernini that they were never set up on the bridge and are now in the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte in Rome.

The redecorated Sant’Angelo Bridge leading across the Tiber forms an introduction to the Vatican, and Bernini’s other works – the piazza, Scala Regia, and the baldachin and cathedra within St Peter’s – form progressively more powerful expressions of papal power to support and inspire Roman Catholic pilgrims to the site. Bernini completed one more decoration in St Peter’s in his last years: the altar of the Santissimo Sacramento Chapel (1673-74). The pliant, human adoration of the angels contrasts with the timeless architecture of the bronze tabernacle that they flank and typifies Bernini’s late style. In his last years he seems to have found the inexorable laws of architecture a consoling antithesis to the transitory human state.

Bernini’s greatest late work is the simple Altieri Chapel in San Francesco a Ripa (c. 1674) in Rome. The relatively deep space above the altar reveals a statue representing the death of the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni. Bernini consciously separated architecture, sculpture, and painting for different roles, reversing the process that culminated in the Cornaro Chapel. In that sense, the Altieri Chapel is more traditional, a variation on his church interiors of the preceding years. Instead of filling the arched opening, the sculpted figure of Ludovica lies at the bottom of a large volume of space, and is illuminated by a heavenly light that plays on the drapery gathered over her recumbent figure. Her hands weakly clutching her breast make explicit her painful death.

Bernini died at the age of 81, after having served eight popes, and when he died he was widely considered not only Europe’s greatest artist but also one of its greatest men. He was the last of Italy’s remarkable series of universal geniuses, and the Baroque style he helped create was the last Italian style to become an international standard. His death marked the end of Italy’s artistic hegemony in Europe. The style he evolved was carried on for two more generations in various parts of Europe by the architects Mattia de’ Rossi and Carlo Fontana in Rome, J.B. Fischer von Erlach in Austria, and the brothers Cosmas and Egid Quirin Asam in Bavaria, among others.

Apollo And Daphne

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Daphne was Apollo’s first love. It was not brought about by accident, but by the malice of Cupid. Apollo saw the boy playing with his bow and arrows; and being himself elated with his recent victory over Python, he said to him, “What have you to do with warlike weapons, saucy boy? Leave them for hands worthy of them. Behold the conquest I have won by means of them over the vast serpent who stretched his poisonous body over acres of the plain! Be content with your torch, child, and kindle up your flames, as you call them, where you will, but presume not to meddle with my weapons.”Venus’s boy heard these words, and rejoined, “:Your arrows may strike all things else, Apollo, but mine shall strike you.:” So saying, he took his stand on a rock of Parnassus, and drew from his quiver two arrows of different workmanship, one to excite love, the other to repel it. The former was of gold and sharp- pointed, the latter blunt and tipped with lead. With the leaden shaft he struck the nymph Daphne, the daughter of the river god Peneus, and with the golden one Apollo, through the heart. Forthwith the god was seized with love for the maiden, and she abhorred the thought of loving. Her delight was in woodland sports and in the spoils of the chase. Many lovers sought her, but she spurned them all, ranging the woods, and taking thought neither of Cupid nor of Hymen. Her father often said to her, “Daughter, you owe me a son-in-law; you owe me grandchildren.” She, hating the thought of marriage as a crime, with her beautiful face tinged all over with blushes, threw her arms around her father’s neck, and said, “Dearest father, grant me this favor, that I may always remain unmarried, like Diana.” He consented, but at the same time said, “Your own face will forbid it.”
Apollo loved her, and longed to obtain her; and he who gives oracles to all in the world was not wise enough to look into his own fortunes. He saw her hair flung loose over her shoulders, and said, “If so charming in disorder, what would it be if arranged?” He saw her eyes bright as stars; he saw her lips, and was not satisfied with only seeing them. He admired her hands and arms bared to the shoulder, and whatever was hidden from view he imagined more beautiful still. He followed her; she fled, swifter than the wind, and delayed not a moment at his entreaties. “Stay,” said he, “daughter of Peneus; I am not a foe. Do not fly me as a lamb flies the wolf, or a dove the hawk. It is for love I pursue you. You make me miserable, for fear you should fall and hurt yourself on these stones, and I should be the cause. Pray run slower, and I will follow slower. I am no clown, no rude peasant. Jupiter is my father, and I am lord of Delphos and Tenedos, and know all things, present and future. I am the god of song and the lyre. My arrows fly true to the mark; but alas! An arrow more fatal than mine has pierced my heart! I am the god of medicine, and know the virtues of all healing plants. Alas! I suffer a malady that no balm can cure!” The nymph continued her flight, and left his plea half uttered. And even as she fled she charmed him. The wind blew her garments, and her unbound hair streamed loose behind her. The god grew impatient to find his wooings thrown away, and, sped by Cupid, gained upon her in the race. It was like a hound pursuing a hare, with open jaws ready to seize, while the feebler animal darts forward, slipping from the very grasp. So flew the god and the virgin he on the wings of love, and she on those of fear. The pursuer is the more rapid, however, and gains upon her, and his panting breath blows upon her hair. Now her strength begins to fail, and, ready to sink, she calls upon her father, the river god: “Help me, Peneus! Open the earth to enclose me, or change my form, which has brought me into this danger!”Scarcely had she spoken, when a stiffness seized all her limbs; her bosom began to be enclosed in a tender bark; her hair became leaves; her arms became branches; her feet stuck fast in the ground, as roots; her face became a tree-top, retaining nothing of its former self but its beauty. Apollo stood amazed. He touched the stem, and felt the flesh tremble under the new bark. He embraced the branches, and lavished kisses on the wood. The branches shrank from his lips. “Since you cannot be my wife,” said he, “you shall assuredly be my tree. I will wear you for my crown. With you I will decorate my harp and my quiver; and when the great Roman conquerors lead up the triumphal pomp to the Capitol, you shall be woven into wreaths for their brows. And, as eternal youth is mine, you also shall be always green, and your leaf know no decay.” The nymph, now changed into a laurel tree, bowed its head in grateful acknowledgment.

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Bernini created an unpreviousd masterpiece for Cardinal Scipione Borghese depicting the chaste nymph Daphne being turned into a laurel tree, pursued in vain by Apollo god of light. This life-size marble sculpture, begun by Bernini at the age of twenty-four and executed between 1622 and 1625, has always been housed in the same villa, but originally stood on a lower and narrower base set against the wall near the stairs. Consequently anyone entering the room first saw Apollo from behind, then the fleeing nymph appeared in the process of metamorphosis: brak covers most of her body, but according to Ovid’s lines, Apollo’s hand can still feel her heart beating beneath it.Thus the scene ends by Daphne being transformed into a laurel tree to escape her divine aggressor. The presence of this pagan myth in the Cardinal’s villa was justified by a moral couplet composed in Latin by Cardinal Maffeo Barberini (later Pope Urban VIII) and engraved on the cartouche on the base, which says: Those who love to pursue fleeting forms of pleasure, in the end find only leaves and bitter berries in their hands. In 1785, when Marcantonio IV Borghese decided to place the work in the centre of the room, Vincenzo Pacetti designed the present base by using the original pieces, adding plaster to the plinth and another cartouche bearing the Borghese eagle, sculpted by Lorenzo Cardelli.

The Ecstacy Of St Theresa

“The pain was so great that I screamed aloud; but at the same time I felt such an infinite sweetness that I wished the pain to last forever. It was not physical but psychic pain, although it affected the body as well to some degree. It was the sweetest caressing of the soul by God.”

When does ardour become obsession, when does attraction turn into burning, all-consuming lust? In a dark alcove of Santa Maria Della Vitoria, in Rome, there lays an answer to such a conundrum. For there sits St. Theresa, immortalised in full, ecclesiastical rapture, her full sensuous awakening chiselled and polished into the obdurate marble, her body yielding to a powerful celestial bliss.

Every stroke that Gian Lorenzo Bernini took, every indelible score he made on that blessed mineral, told of a man so consumed by his craft, so devoted to enacting a divine proficiency, that the contentious line had indeed, very objectively, been crossed. In the hands of Bernini, stone, as if by miracle, had finally become flesh.

Some artists define the age in which they live. Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who shaped and chiselled and molded stone like none other before him, turning hard mineral into visceral, sensual life, was one of those people. Bernini’s universal genius dominated Italian art in the seventeenth century much as the brooding, intense Michelangelo had dominated the sixteenth. It was Bernini who created, virtually single-handed, our very perception of the Rome of the Baroque era.


St Theresa was a nun of the Carmelite Order and one of the great mystical saints of the Spanish Counter-Reformation. Her conversion took place after the death of her father, when she fell into a series of trances, saw visions and heard voices: Beside me on the left appeared an angel in bodily form . He was not tall but short, and very beautiful; and his face was so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest ranks of angels, who seem to be all on fire . . . In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated my entrails. When he pulled it out I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one can not possibly wish it to cease, nor is one’s soul content with anything but God. This is not a physical but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it — even a considerable share.
Feeling an unrelenting pain in her side she came to believe that its cause was the fire-tipped dart of Divine love which an angel had thrust into her breast and she expressed as making her swoon in delightful anguish:
The pain was so great that I screamed aloud but at the same time I felt such infinite sweetness that I wished the pain to last forever. It was not physical but psychic pain, although it affected the body as well to some degree. It was the sweetest caressing of the soul by God.
This was interpreted at the time and ever since as a spiritual transport sexually expressed. Bernini employs the whole chapel as a theater for the production of this transcendental drama. The niche in which the holy event takes place is a proscenium crowned with a broken Baroque pediment and ornamented with polychrome marble. On either side of the chapel, portraits of the both living and dead members of the Cornaro family in sculptured opera boxes represent an audience as voyeurs watching the denouement of the heavenly moment with intense piety. Spectators are involved in the experience too, in which all the faithful are invited to participate as a member of the audience. Bernini shows the saint in ecstasy unmistakably a mingling of spiritual and physical passion, swooning back on a cloud, with an expression full of light and happiness the angel aims an arrow as his left hand holds the dress fabric with the same delicacy that echoes Michelangelo’s Pieta. The group is of white marble, and the artist goes to extreme intelligence in his management of textures in an attempt to balance naturalism with allegory: the clouds, rough monk’s cloth, gauzy material, contrast against the smooth flesh of angel and saint and represents their joined and divine purity. The angel’s feathery wings are all carefully differentiated, yet harmonized in visual and imaginative effect. Light is the disguised element that Bernini uses to heighten this implied drama. From a hidden window the Holy Spirit rains down bronze rays intended to be seen as bursting forth from a painting of Heaven from the vault above. Several tons of marble seems to float in a haze of light, the winds of Heaven buoying draperies as the cloud ascends. It represents a sense of the infinite; space light and time. The remote mysteries of religion, taking a recognizable form, descend to meet the human world halfway, within the conventions of Baroque art and theatre. Bernini had much to do with the institution of the principles of visual illusion that guided both. He was perfectly familiar with the writing of plays, theatrical productions and stagecraft. In addition to the sculpture, and the balconies of family members engaged in meditation or disputes, there is a fresco of the Holy Ghost and angels in the vault. Color and light, spreading through the marble, the decorations, the fresco, along with the sense of theatrical action conveyed through the rays falling on Teresa come from the Holy Ghost, pulls together the whole scheme.

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The Gentle Teasing Removal Of  The Robe

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In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated my entrails. When he pulled it out I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one can not possibly wish it to cease, nor is one’s soul content with anything but God

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The Gasps Of  Delight And Anticipation

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The Toe Curling Intensity Of Purest Orgasm

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Theresa’s Head Thrown Back In The Rapture Of The Passion

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The Heavenly Light Above

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The Symbol Of Death Below The Scene

To me this is a clear indication of Bernini’s intention to portray  “la petite mort”. A state of euphoria hovering between heaven and death.

(The little death is translation from the French “la petite mort”, a popular reference for a sexual orgasm. The term has been broadly expanded to include specific instances of blacking out after orgasm and other supposed spiritual releases that come with orgasm)

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Theater box

To the left as the scene plays out before them. men of the Cornaro  Family discuss in disbelief .

I must stress that these are entirely my opinions, but having studied Bernini for many years, I think all the clues are there.  I have stood in awe many times in the Cornaro Chapel of the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria and have always reached the same conclusion.

Please feel free to leave comments, I value your opinions

The Rape of Proserpine

This is by far my favourite sculpture by any artist, and when you consider theat Bernini completed this piece at the age of 23, it makes it even more remarkable. Every time I see or touch this sculpture I am in awe of its power. You can almost feel a pulse.

Bernini made his mark by working with the space around his sculptures to draw in its viewers. Looking at The Rape of Proserpina is a journey and Bernini uses line and gaze to guide his audience around the sculpture in order to discover its particular meaning. The left side of the work shows Pluto’s aggressive stride and immediately the viewer is able to see that this image follows along with a story.With Pluto’s lunging stance, the viewer is immediately grabbed. To the onlooker, the figure shows a strong and powerful male seizing a young and voluptuous woman. The soft curving lines of the sculpture lead the viewer’s eyes around to the front to discover Proserpina as she tries to detach herself from Pluto’s strong hold. Simultaneously, Pluto shows an expression of slight confusion and finds it entertaining that Proserpina would deny him. Bernini crafted Proserpina looking away from her captor as she tries to liberate her body from the hold he has on her. If we follow her stare, we journey around to the right side. Bernini depicts her lips as though they are speaking, crying out for help as Pluto’s hands are forced into her full thigh. Pluto is taking Proserpina to Hades because he is the “Ruler of the Underworld.”

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The Monument to the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni

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The monument to the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni is a sculpture group by the baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It was commissioned from Bernini by Cardinal Paluzzi degli Albertoni, who had taken the name Altieri after the elevation of a kinsman of his family by marriage, Pope Clement X (1670-76). It is not clear how much Bernini was paid; he was 71 years old when he began the work, and it was one of the last sculptures executed by Bernini. The work depicts Ludovica Albertoni on her deathbed, experiencing both mortal suffering and religious ecstasy, surrounded by putti, and awaiting to rise to the Holy Spirit. Ludovica (who died a nun in 1533) was also a distant relative of the Cardinal, and had been found blessed by 1671. The monument is in its specially designed chapel in San Francesco a Ripa.

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