Artist Features

An Artist a Week: Gian Lorenzo Bernini


Week 55: Gian Lorenzo Bernini
“Apollo and Daphne: Love in Vain”

I don’t cover much art that wasn’t created in the last 200 years, but I feel like trying to talk about sculptures (or appreciating women) without mentioning Bernini has been blasphemous thus far so I’m ending 2016 with a mea culpa.

(For the sake of this post, full views of sculptures will be in the post; closer-up details will be at the bottom and I do recommend you scroll down to see them.)


Gian Lorenzo Bernini was an Italian artist known as the creator of the Baroque concept of sculpture. (He was also a script writer, architect, painter, and many other things but this post will mostly be a love song to his sculptures.) Bernini is by far one of the most easily recognizable sculpture artists, and his ability to show intense emotion and action alongside his ability to make marble look soft made him completely outshine any competition during the very competitive period he was creating art.


When I say Bernini showed emotion, I mean not only anguish or happiness but also a kind of ecstasy that was controversial at the time for appearing sexual in nature (as in the Ecstasy of St. Theresa). 


The nature of Bernini’s work (and Baroque sculpture in general) is that it was always a bit more than pieces before it. They were meant to be looked at from all angles, like a theater in the round. (Because of this, I think to fully appreciate Bernini you’ll just have to see a sculpture live some day. I know it’s on my bucket list.) A million intricate tiny pieces like folds of cloth or divets of skin make for the most realistic marble work you might ever see–as if someone froze the characters, rather than carved them from stone.



I hope that photo above stuns you as much as it does me. That’s marble. Stone. Cold, solid stone that Bernini sculpted so cleverly that it looks like thin gauze, like it’s cloth. Bernini was such an incredible master of his craft that the word “master” ceases to even come close to encompassing what he did. It was, for lack of a better way to put it, spiritual. It was beyond comprehension by this mortal, certainly.



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