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Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Italian pronunciation: [ˈdʒan loˈrɛntso berˈniːni]; also Gianlorenzo or Giovanni Lorenzo; 7 December 1598 – 28 November 1680) was an Italian sculptor and architect. While a major figure in the world of architecture, he was the leading sculptor of his age, credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture. As one scholar has commented, "What Shakespeare is to drama, Bernini may be to sculpture: the first pan-European sculptor whose name is instantaneously identifiable with a particular manner and vision, and whose influence was inordinately powerful...." In addition, he was a painter (mostly small canvases in oil) and a man of the theater: he wrote, directed and acted in plays (mostly Carnival satires), also designing stage sets and theatrical machinery, as well as a wide variety of decorative art objects including lamps, tables, mirrors, and even coaches. As architect and city planner, he designed both secular buildings and churches and chapels, as well as massive works combining both architecture and sculpture, especially elaborate public fountains and funerary monuments and a whole series of temporary structures (in stucco and wood) for funerals and festivals.

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Psychoanalysis of Bernini and his Apollo and Daphne When looking at the life and examining the art created by such famous sculptors such as Bernini, it is easy to overlook and not to put into account their personal lives and can show up in their works of art. Bernini is not an exception to this idea of personal and political coinciding with one another. Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne reflect on the internal psyche of his own internal understanding of chasing love, being in love, emotional loss, and the emotional aspects of the human condition. Was Bernini the mad artist or was he a genius? Birth and Early Years There were many environmental factors that encouraged Gianlorenzo Bernini to become a well-known and great sculptor. Bernini’s father was Pietro Bernini, a sculptor who did mostly religious subject matter such as his The Charity of Saint Martin. c. 1610 and Bust of Antonio Coppola of 1612. Bernini, born in Sesto Fiorentiono, a northern village in Florence, spent his time as a child with his father in Naples. As a child he was around other sculptors and workers who drilled, carved, and chipped away at stone. When he was eight years old he made a small head of an angel. Three to four years later, Bernini carved a life sized scale bust of Monsignor Giovanni Battista Santoni. Bernini’s talent became known throughout parts of Rome. This caught the attention of the infamous and ruthless art collector, Cardinal Scipione Borghese whom also was the nephew of Pope Paul V. His youthful talent was considered to be so exceptional that the Church felt obligated to have him educated at the Vatican. While in training he became interested in disegno, “the capturing of a piece’s psychological moment of highest drama” (Morrissey, 27). Bernini’s talent was so great that he surpassed Pietro Bernini who was not only his father but his teacher. Dragon Guardian of the Hesperides. Bernini was not only known for having exceptional talent as a sculptor, but was known for being discreetly manipulative by any means to maintain and keep his success. Bernini was not only manipulative but was favored so much by his patrons that when an assistant did the work he did not get any credit or acknowledgement. According to Jennifer Montagu, a co-curator for his Apollo and Daphne, “The execution of the roots, branches, and hair tresses was largely the work of his assistant, Guiliano Finelli” (Lubow, 81). Borromini biographer, Giovanni Battista Passeri wrote to Giuliano Finelli, who was also taken advantage of by Bernini, “…like the dragon guarding the Gardens of Hesperides, who worked against anyone attempting to gain the golden apples of papal grace, and spat poison and sharply pointed darts of hatred all over the path that led to possessions of the highest favors” (Morrissey, 93). The controversy of his Baldacchino was an example of this. Borromini did a thorough investigation and found out that “Bernini and Radi had a secret agreement to pay Bernini a portion of the partnership’s profits in exchange for the honor of supplying marble to the architect (17th century version kickback)” (Morrissey, 95). His talents were not only considered to be extraordinary, but seen as a gift. Bernini was able to take a material such as marble which is considered to be difficult, fragile, and cold material and turn it into flesh. This ability to make marble appear to be flesh like was his way to show off his exceptionally wonderful talent with sculpture. Bernini’s ruthlessness, greed, and carelessness had cost him dearly. The stability of the Baldacchino would not support his statue of Christ the Redeemer. He no longer had Borromini or anyone else to advise him about the foundation not being strong enough to hold up the upper stories of the sculpture. This incident caused the public and papacy to question his skills and reputation. Literature Review. Reflecting on a certain time is more than just talking about the art style and trends that were considered to be acceptable. Robert Harbison’s “Reflections on Baroque” title gave me the expectation that I would be reading more about the art, the artists, and the time period. I am disappointed in Harbison’s The Case for Disruption essay. The Case for Disruption would be great if it was not written in such a disorganized manner. Harbison’s essay, The Case for Disruption starts off with a very thorough and well put together beginning statement explaining the psychology and use of dramatic emotional expression found in artwork during this time period. When Harbison states, “ The psychological and social meanings of such disruptive impulses are diverse, but it is obvious from the start that the style is not formal exercise, but signals a transformation of the human consciousness” (Harbison, 1), he has my full attention. This essay should have been titled The Case for Disruption in the World of Fine Art, Performance Art, and Literature. The Case for Disruption was not a very good title for Harbison to give to his essay. There is an expectation to reading about various artworks. It has a very strong beginning, but unfortunately the rest of the essay was not pleasant reading. His topics are disorganized and lack an art historian perspective when looking at the Baroque. Harbison is constantly changing the subject and going back and forth between topics. When Harbison speaks of Bernini’s great works, he avoids the personal and professional life of Bernini. Bernini is acknowledged for his great works, but not for his obstacles in his professional and personal life. Harbison’s lack of interest in the artists’ personal life show that during the Baroque artists may have been treated as art production factories not as individuals. Bernini is not only great because of his works, but for the many obstacles in his personal and professional life that he was able to overcome. Without his patron’s financial support, his determination, and his natural talent for sculpture he would not have become as well known and as well financed by wealthy patrons. Unlike Harbison, Petersson is able to share information about Bernini’s process and opinions when it came to his work and dedication. In Robert Petersson’s Confronting the Marble, he humanizes Bernini and discusses the potential problems and his excellent skills in working with such expensive material such as marble. Petersson talks about Bernini’s reputation as being strong and having a lot of stamina. Bernini was determined and disciplined with his work. “…he could work at marble for six-hour stretches, outlasting all of his young assistants” (Petersson, 89). Regardless of the work Bernini has done, his personal and professional obstacles in his life were never in his way. Qualities such as determination and skill were what made Bernini great and able to have such wealthy patrons. Harbison claims that “Bernini saw the physical materials of art as a means of working on spectators’ emotions, a headlong pursuit which can seem vulgar or unscrupulous to modern eyes” (Harbison, 2). During the Counter Reformation manipulating of the viewer’s emotions was a common method used to have followers return back to the Church. The Baroque was known for its theatricality. Bernini’s patrons enjoyed how he was able to have sculpture appear as though they were jumping off of the pedestal and following the trend Baroque by breaking away from the Classical period’s aesthetic. Bossaglia, Carli, Russoli, Martinelli, and Pirovano in 1200 Years of Italian Sculpture, found that Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne “…became the most celebrated of his mythological ones…” (Plate 165). Harbison ignores and fails to mention the Counter Reformation, the Church’s patrons, and their goal to getting back and gaining new believers through the fine arts. Harbison ignores a lot of facts that do make artists like Bernini truly amazing. An artist is not only their product. There are many personal and/or professional obstacles to overcome to be successful and to gain patronage. Bernini was very sociable able to work with and talk to his patrons about what was desired from what was being commissioned. Without being talented, sociable, and a quick problem solver, he would not have been as financially successful as he was. Looking back or “reflecting” on a particular time period and artist is more than just the ongoing art and literature trends. To better understand any time period, it helps to know about the artist’s thought process, their personal and professional obstacles faced, and the social politics. Scandals Creativity, wit, and being a problem solver are requirements to remain in favor with wealth patrons and the papacy. Without being the favorite of wealthy patrons and the papacy, an artist would not financially survive. If anyone was able to handle scandals, obtain the commissions from wealthy patrons and the papacy, and deal with manipulation it was Bernini. Bernini was not only manipulative in taking kickbacks and credit for work that was not his. He was known for being very passionate and hot tempered. With the formal training Bernini received through the Vatican, he was able to take a humanistic approach take on the subject of young love. Apollo and Daphne shows the artists understanding of love and the chase. He is able to relate to the subject because of his experience with Constanza Bonarelli, the wife of his assistant Matteo Bonarelli and other unnamed women. In his sixties he had admitted that he had an “inclination for pleasure” (Morrissey, 134). Apollo’s love for Daphne at such an extreme as Bernini’s was for Constanza. Bernini understood the emotions of love and chasing what one cannot have. Bernini’s creativity and “volatility and violence of his creative energy” (Williams, 193) was seen by his son, Domenico Bernini. Bernini was known for being emotionally ruthless. He was determined to not only be the favorite of the papacy but was also capable of violence. In May 1638, Bernini heard rumors about Constanza having an affair with his youngest brother, Luigi. To find out if the affair was true, he lied to his family and told them he would be out of town. Instead of leaving he kept an eye on Constanza to find out the truth. While waiting he saw Luigi leave Constanza’s house. He followed his brother to St. Peter’s and assaulted him with a crowbar breaking two ribs. After this incident his volatility and violent temper of his was so great that he chased his love, Constanza through the means of a servant to take a razor to her face so no one would look at her. He wanted to make sure that no other man including her husband, Matteo be attracted to her ever again. To do this, he believed that “her beauty must be destroyed” (Morrissey, 137). When the public found out about Bernini’s violence against his brother and lover, the Roman public and law officials wanted justice. Criminal proceedings were filed. The only thing that saved Bernini from criminal punishment was his mother, Angelica Bernini. Angelica Bernini went to the pope’s nephew, Cardinal Francesco Barberini and asked him to talk to her son and lessen the punishment. Bernini was fined 3,000 scudi (the price of a Bernini sculpture or a year of rent) and the servant was exiled from Rome. Luigi Bernini lived and escaped his brother to live in Bologna. He was given a commission to work at San Paolo Maggiore. Apollo and Daphne Bernini manipulation of co-workers and marble weren’t his only talent. His studies under the Vatican became very useful. While studying he became interested in being able to depict and capture the height of psychological moments. This interest and study made Bernini very effective in depicting the fear of Daphne and Apollo’s happiness that is found in young love. Bernini experience of love, being loved, and the emotional chase were subject matters that Bernini was very familiar with. He was known for being a pleasure seeker especially when it was with women. The incident of injuring Luigi and his lover, Constanza show that Bernini is not only familiar with love, passion, and the chase. His professional life was part of his personal life. Bernini was able to take human emotions including his own and put it into his Apollo and Daphne. Bernini’s interest in capturing human emotion and the moment of highest drama is a very common trait found in other Baroque artists’ works. His Apollo and Daphne is a representative of this. The appearance of facial expressions was not only able to acknowledge the viewer, but the artist’s own experience and understanding of his emotions. The sculpture appears as though it is jumping off the pedestal. The viewer is able to take on the role as spectator and look at all angles of this theatrical scene. He did not only acknowledge the emotions of the viewer, but the use of the eyes and the gaze to show the awe and wonder of Apollo chasing Daphne’s and her fear of Apollo’s attraction to her. The artist treated the pedestal as being part of a stage in a theatrical scene versus being a functional object used traditionally in sculpture. Mood Disorders and Depression. The sadness and loss was also familiar to Bernini as seen with Apollo’s facial expression when he sees Daphne changing into a laurel tree. Domenico Bernini recalls his father’s sadness as being “a mortal sickness”. This mortal sickness that Domenico recalls were symptoms of a mood disorder known today as vegetative symptoms. “Vegetative symptoms refer to the symptoms that serious depression causes when it interferes with the basic needs or drives for sleep, food, and sexual pleasure. That this illness interferes with so many aspects of life illustrates how serious it is and how basic a change in brain chemistry must cause it” (Mondimore, 19). There are also symptoms of major depression that Bernini suffered due to loss of Constanza with whom Domenico recalls him being “fiercely in love and sent her bust into exile” (Morrissey, 139). Once the pope convinced Bernini to get married, a year later, he was married to Caterina Tezio. Unlike Constanza Bonarelli, Caterina had the reputation of being not only beautiful, but also prudent, docile and honest. Bernini’s marriage to her had relieved his symptoms of major and vegetative depression. People such as Bernini who have loved, lost, had many personal crises in their personal and professional lives are able to overcome obstacles through personal determination. The incident with his brother Luigi and pain and anguish from Constanza’s infidelity had resulted in emotionally exhaustion and anger. His negative thoughts after Constanza and his brother resulted in what is called psychomotor retardation. Sometimes people who are severely depressed take longer to think and speak, and even their movements can be slowed down, an effect called psychomotor retardation. (Retardation here has its literal meaning of “slowed” and has nothing to do with the term mental retardation, which refers to low IQ.) Those around the sufferer sometimes interpret this lethargy as laziness, and this criticism can compound the guilt associated with the illness (Mondimore, 24). Bernini’s experience with finding love, chasing it, to only become disappointed can be seen when looking at his Apollo and Daphne. His personal life with Constanza Bonarelli and how it affected his work can be seen in his treatment of the marble and his depiction of Daphne and Apollo themselves. The emotional drama found in Apollo and Daphne show not only his understanding of the human condition, but his own personal experiences shared with Constanza. Apollo’s disappointment when he sees Daphne’s metamorphous into a tree shows is similar to his own personal disappointment of discovering Constanza’s affair with his brother. Conclusion Bernini’s understanding of the human condition gave him a better understanding of how to not only manipulate people’s emotions through art. It gave him a better understanding of social decorum which helped him gain commissions from wealthy patrons and the papacy alike. He was able to bring cold, hard material such as marble and give it a flesh-like appearance and emotions that viewers regardless of social standing can relate to. His actions, determination, and artistic talent show that he was not the insane but understood his actions. Bernini was not mad, but had emotional and intellectual genius. The emotional and mental intelligence, encouragement from his father and environment he grew up in only encourage him to excel in sculpture and architecture. Bernini was not the stereotypical, mad artist/mad genius, but an emotional and mental intellectual. Works Cited Avery, Charles. The Great Mythological Groups: Aeneas, Proserpina, and Daphne. Bernini: Genius of the Baroque. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson. 1997. Print. Bossaglia, Rossana; Carli, Enzo; Russoli, Franco; Martinelli, Valentino; and Pirovano, Carlo From Mannerism to the Rococo. 1200 Years of Italian Sculpture. New York, NY: Harry N. Adams, Inc. 1997. Print. Harbison, Robert. The Case for Disruption. Reflections on Baroque. London, UK: Reaktion Books Ltd. 2000. Print. Lublow, Arthur Bernini’s Genius. Smithsonian: 39 (7), 76-83. 2008 October. Mondimore, Francis Mark, M.D. Depression, the Mood Disease. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press. 2006. Electronic book. Morrissey, Jake. The Genius in Design. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers Inc. 2005. Print. Petersson, Robert T. Bernini and the Excesses of Art. Florence, Italy: Maschietto & Ditore. 2002. Print. Williams, Robert. Always like Himself: Character and Genius in Bernini’s Biographies in Bernini’s Biographies. Bernini’s Biographies; Critical Essays. 2006. Print. Wilson, William. Bernini: A Bare Sketch of Genius. Calendar. 1982, February 21. pp. 94. Print.

Contributed by Christine Keahl

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