There is certainly no shortage of information on Gianlorenzo Bernini. Rightly considered to be the most gifted sculptor of the Italian Baroque, Bernini’ s lyrical, animated style set the precedent for more than a century’ s worth of sculpture. Acclaimed Bernini scholars Irving Lavin and Howard Hibbard acknowledge the presence of poetic narrative in Bernini’ s work, and other researchers hint at the early environmental factors that contributed to his stylistic evolution. Nevertheless, there has been no conclusive work done on exactly what these factors were and how they interacted to influence the young artist. Expanding upon the work of others, this thesis attempts to address this question by examining three early works in light of their patron and his surroundings.
The court culture of the Villa Borghese, a microcosm of the sixteenth century preoccupation with paragone, was essential to Bernini’ s growth and maturation as an artist. During the infancy of his career, Bernini created three large-scale sculptures for Cardinal Scipione Borghese: Pluto and Persephone (1621-22), David (1623), and Apollo and Daphne (1622-24). These works greatly reflect the influence of the poetical culture and paragone debate that engulfed the court in which Bernini was enmeshed. In addition to being a great admirer of ancient verse and a patron of contemporary poets, Scipione took great pride in his own poetic talent and strove to surround himself with appropriate imagery. Ancient works, such as Horace’ s ut pictura poesis, clearly reflect the interests and desires that formed Bernini’ s approach to art.
Katherine Kunau, ’06 Preston, IA
Majors: Art, History
Sponsor: Christina McOmber